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bear testimony in its favor. The Parliament of Paris had an origin very, very similar to that of the great court before which I stand; the Parliament of Paris continued to have a great resemblance to it in its Constitution, even to its fall; the Parliament of Paris, my Lords,-WAS; it is gone! It has passed away; it has vanished like a dream! It fell pierced by the sword of the Compte de Mirabeau. And yet that man, at the time of his inflicting the death-wound of that Parliament, produced at once the shortest and the grandest funeral oration that ever was or could be made upon the departure of a great court of magistracy. When he pronounced the death sentence upon that Parliament, and inflicted the mortal wound, he declared that his motives for doing it were merely political, and that their hands were as pure as those of justice itself, which they administered—a great and glorious exit, my Lords, of a great and glorious body!
My Lords, if you must fall, may you so fall! But, if you stand, and stand I trust you will, together with the fortunes of this ancient monarchy-together with the ancient laws and liberties of this great and illustrious kingdom, may you stand as unimpeached in honor as in power; may you stand, not as a substitute for virtue, but as an ornament of virtue, as a security for virtue; may you stand long, and long stand the terror of tyrants; may you stand the refuge of afflicted Nations; may you stand a sacred temple, for the perpetual residence of an inviolable justice!
RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.
TRUST your Lordships will not believe that,
because something is necessary to retrieve the British character, we call for an example to be made, without due and solid proof of the guilt of the person whom we pursue:no, my Lords, we know well that it is the glory of this Constitution, that not the general fame or character of any man-not the weight or power of any prosecutor-no plea of moral or political expediency-not even the secret consciousness of guilt, which may live in the bosom of the Judge, can justify any British Court in passing any sentence, to touch a hair of the head, or an atom, in any respect, of the property, of the fame, of the liberty of the poorest or meanest subject that breathes the air of this just and free land. We know, my Lords, that there can be no legal guilt without legal proof, and that the rule which defines the evidence is as much the law of the land as that which creates the crime. It is upon that ground we mean to stand.
Major Scott comes to your bar-describes the shortness of time—represents Mr. Hastings as it were contracting for a character-putting his memory into commission-making departments for his conscience. A number of friends meet together, and he, knowing (no doubt) that the accusation of the Commons had been drawn up by a Committee, thought it necessary, as a point of punctilio, to answer it by a Committee also. One furnishes the raw material of fact, the second spins the argument, and the third twines up the conclusion, while Mr. Hastings, with a master's eye, is cheering and looking over this loom.
He says to
one, “You have got my good faith in your handsyou, my veracity to manage. Mr. Shore, I hope you will make me a good financier-Mr. Middleton, you have my humanity in commission." When it is done, he brings it to the House of Commons, and says, “I was equal to the task. I knew the difficulties, but I scorn them: here is the truth, and if the truth will convict me, I am content myself to be the channel of it!" His friends hold up their heads, and say, “What noble magnanimity! This must be the effect of conscious and real innocence." Well, it is so received, it is so argued upon--but it fails of its effect.
Then says Mr. Hastings: “That my defence! no, mere journeyman-work-good enough for the Commons, but not fit for your Lordships' consideration.' He then calls upon his Counsel to save him: “I fear none of my accusers' witnesses—I know some of them well-I know the weakness of their memory, and the strength of their attachment_I fear no testimony but my own-save me from the peril of my own panegyric
-preserve me from that, and I shall be safe. Then is this plea brought to your Lordships' bar, and Major Scott gravely asserts,-that Mr. Hastings did, at the bar of the House of Commons, vouch for facts of which he was ignorant, and for arguments which he had never read.
After such an attempt, we certainly are left in doubt to decide, to which set of his friends Mr. Hastings is the least obliged, those who assisted him in making his defence, or those who advised him to deny it.
I am perfectly convinced that there is one idea, which must arise in your Lordships' minds as a subject of wonder,-how a person of Mr. Hastings' reputed abilities can furnish such matter of accusation against himself. He knows that truth must convict him, and concludes, à converso, that falsehood will acquit him; forgetting that there must be some connection, some system, some coöperation, or, otherwise, his host of falsities fall without an enemy, self-discomfited and destroyed. But of this he never seems to have had the slightest apprehension. He falls to work, an artificer of fraud, against all the rules of architecture; -he lays his ornamental work first, and his massy foundation at the top of it; and thus his whole building tumbles upon his head. Other people look well to their ground, choose their position, and watch whether they are likely to be surprised there; but he, as if in the ostentation of his heart, builds upon a precipice, and encamps upon a mine, from choice.
He seems to have no one actuating principle, but a steady, persevering resolution not to speak the truth or to tell the fact.
It is impossible almost to treat conduct of this kind with perfect seriousness; yet I am aware that it ought to be more seriously accounted for–because I am sure it has been a sort of paradox, which must have struck your Lordships, how any person having so many motives to conceal—having so many reasons to dread detection should yet go to work so clumsily upon the subject. It is possible, indeed, that it may raise this doubt-whether such a person is of sound mind enough to be a proper object of punishment; or at least it may give a kind of confused notion that the guilt cannot be of so deep and black a grain, over which such a thin veil was thrown, and so little trouble taken to avoid detection. I am aware that, to account for this seeming paradox, historians, poets, and even philosophersat least of ancient times—have adopted the superstitious solution of the vulgar, and said that the gods deprive men of reason whom they devote to destruction or to punishment. But to unassuming or unprejudiced reason, there is no need to resort to any supposed supernatural interference; for the solution will be found in the eternal rules that formed the mind of man, and gave a quality and nature to every passion that inhabits in it.
An honourable friend of mine, who is now, I believe, near me, has told you that Prudence, the first of virtues, never can be used in the cause of vice. But I should doubt whether we can read the history of a Philip of Macedon, a Cæsar, or a Cromwell, without confessing, that there have been evil purposes, baneful to the peace and to the rights of men, conducted—if I may not say, with prudence or with wisdom-yet with awful craft and most successful and commanding subtlety. If, however, I might make a distinction, I should say that it is the proud attempt to mix a variety of lordly crimes, that unsettles the prudence of the mind, and breeds this distraction of the brain. One master-passion, domineering in the breast, may win the faculties of the understanding to advance its purpose, and to direct to that object everything that thought or human knowledge can effect; but, to succeed, it must maintain a solitary despotism in the mind -each rival profligacy must stand aloof, or wait in abject vassalage upon its throne. For, the Power, that has not forbade the entrance of evil passions into man's mind, has, at least, forbade their union;-if they meet they defeat their object, and their conquest, or their attempt at it, is tumult. To turn to the Virtues