« السابقةمتابعة »
hearts. We in Scotland have also a forensic eloquence of our own-more speculative, discursive, and ambitious than that of England ---but less poetical and passionate than that of Ireland; and the peculiarity might be plausibly ascribed, here also, to the imputed character of the nation, as distinguished for logical acuteness and intrepid questioning of authority, rather than for richness of imagination, or promptitude of feeling. We do not mean to deny the existence or the operation of these causes- but we think the effect is produced chiefly by others of a more vulgar description. The small number of Courts and Judges in England--compared to its great wealth, population, and business has made brevity and despatch not only important but indispensable qualifications in an advocate in great practice, since it would be physically impossible either for him or for the Courts to get through their business without them. All mere ornamental speaking, therefore, is not only severely discountenanced, but absolutely debarred; and the most technical
, direct and authoritative views of the case alone can be listened to. But judicial time, to use the language of Bentham, is not of the same high value, either in Ireland or in Scotland; and the pleaders of those countries have consequently given way to that universal love of long speaking, which can never be repressed by any thing but the absolute impossibility of indulging it-while their prolixity has taken a different character, not so much from the temperament of the speakers, as from the difference of the audiences they have generally had to address.-In Ireland, the greater part of their tediousness is bestowed on Jaries —and their vein, consequently, has been more popular.— With us in Scotland, the advocate has to speak chiefly to the Judges -and naturally endeavours, therefore, to make that impression by subtlety, or compass of reasoning, which he would in vain attempt, either by pathos, poetry, or jocularity.- Professional speakers, in short, we are persuaded, will always speak as long as they can be listened to.-The quantity of their eloquence, therefore, will depend on the time that can be afforded for its display-and its quality on the nature of the audience to which it is addressed.
But though we cannot admit that the causes assigned by this author are the main or fundamental causes of the peculiarity of Irish oratory, we are far from denying that there is much in it of a national character, and indicating something extraordinary either in the temper of the people, or in the state of society among them. There is, in particular, a much greater Irascibility, with its usual concomitants of coarseness and personality, and a much more Theatrical tone, or a taste for forced and exaggerated sentiments, than would be tolerated on this side of the channel. Of the former attribute, the continual, and, we must say, most indecent altercations that are recorded in these volumes between the Bench and the Bar, are certainly the most flagrant and offensive examples. In some cases the Judges were perhaps the aggressors—but the violence and indecorum is almost wholly on the side of the Counsel; and the excess and intemperance of their replies generally goes far beyond anything for which an apology can be found in the provocation that had been given. A very striking instance occurs in an early part of Mr Curran's history, where he is said to have observed, upon an opinion delivered by Judge Robinson, that he had never met with the law as laid down by his Lordship in any book in his library;' and, upon his Lordship rejoining, somewhat scornfully, that he suspected his library was very small,' the offended barrister, in allusion to the known fact of the Judge having recently published some anonymous pamphlets, thought fit to reply, that · his library might be small, but he thanked heaven that, among his books, there were none of the wretched productions of the frantic pamphleteers of the day. I find it more instructive, my lord, to study good works than to compose bad ones; my books may be few, but the title-pages give me the writers' names -my shelf is not disgraced by any of such rank absurdity that their very authors are aslıamed to own them.” (p. 122.) On another occasion, when he was proceeding in an argument with his characteristic impetuosity, the presiding Judge having called to the Sheriff to be ready to take into custody any one who should disturb the decorum of the Court, the sensitive counsellor at once applying the notice to himself
, is reported to have broken out into the following incredible apostrophe Do, Mr Sheriff,' replied Mr Curran, go and get ready my dungeon ; prepare a bed of straw for
that bed I shall to-night repose with more tranquillity than I should enjoy were I sitting upon that bench with a consciousness that I disgraced it.'-Even his reply to Lord Ciare, when interrupted by him in an argument before the Privy Council, seems to us much more petulant than severc. His Lordship, it seems, had admonished him that he was wandering from the question; and Mr C. after some general observations, replied, 'I am aware, my lords, that truth is to be sought only by slow and painful progress: I know also that error is in its nature flippant and compendious ; it hops with airy and fastidious levity over proofs and arguments, and perches upon assertion, which it calls conclusion. 'To Lord Clare, however, Mr C. had every possible temptation to be intractable aod impertinent. But even to his best friends, when placed on the seat of jucłgment, he could not always forbear a similar petulance. Lord Avonmore was al
ways most kind and indulgent to him—but was sometimes in the habit it seems of checking his wanderings, and sometimes of too impatiently anticipating his conclusions. Upon one of these occasions, and in the middle of a solemn argument, we are called on to admire the following piece of vulgar and farcical stupidity, as a specimen of Mr C.'s most judicious pleasantry.“ Perhaps, my Lord, I am straying ; but you must impute it to the ex. treme agitation of my mind. I have just witnessed so dreadful a cir. cumstance, that my imagination has not yet recovered from the shock."—His lordship was now all attention." On my way to court, my lord, as I passed by one of the markets, I observed a butcher proceeding to slaughter a calf. Just as his hand was raised, a lovely little child approached him unperceived, and, terrible to relate-I still see the life-blood gushing out the poor child's bosom was under his hand, when he plunged his knife into-into"--" Into the bosom of the child !” cried out the judge, with much emotion—“ Into the neck of the calf, my lord; but your lordship sometimes anticipates.
But this is not quite fair.-There is no more such nonsense in the book-nor any other Iricism so discreditable to the taste either of its hero or its author. There are plenty of traits, however, that make one blush for the degradation, and shudder at the government of that magnificent country:-One of the most striking is supplied by an event in the early part of Mr C.'s professional history, and one to which he is here said to have been indebted for his first celebrity. A nobleman of great weight and influence in the country—we gladly suppress though it is given in the book-had a mistress, whose brother being a Catholic, had, for some offence been sentenced to ecclesiastical penance and the young woman solicited her keeper to use his influence with the priest to obtain a remission. His Lordship went accordingly to the cabin of the aged pastor, who came bareheaded to the door with his missal in his hand; and after hearing the application, respectfully answered, that the sentence having been imposed by the Bishop, could only be re, laxed by the same authority—and that he had no right or power to interfere with it. The noble mediator on this struck the old man! and drove him with repeated blows from his presence. The priest then brought his action of damages—but for a long time could find no advocate hardy enough to undertake his cause;—and when
Curran at last made offer of his services, he was blamed and pitied by all his prudent friends for his romantic and Quixotic rashness. These facts speak volumes as to the utter perversion of moral feeling that is produced by unjust laws, and the habits to which they give rise. No nation is so brave or so generous as the Irish,—and yet an Irish pobleman cculd be guilty of the brutality of striking an aged
priest, without derogating from his dignity or honour:-No body of men could be more intrepid and gallant than the leaders of the Irish bar; and yet it was thought too daring and presumptuous for any of them to assist the sufferer in obtaining redress for an outrage like this. In England, those things are inconceivable; but the readers of Irish history are aware, that where the question was between Peer and Peasant-and still more when it was between Protestant and Catholic--the barristers had cause for apprehension. It was but about forty years before, that upon a Catholic bringing an action for the recovery of his confiscated estates, the Irish House of Commons publicly voted a resolution, that all barristers, solici.tors, attorneys, and proctors who should be concerned for him,
should be considered as public enemies!' This was in 1735. In 1780, however, Mr C. found the service not quite so dangerous; and by great eloquence and exertion extorted a reluctant verdict, and 30 guineas of damages from a Protestant Jury. The sequel of the affair was not less characteristic. In the first place, it involved the advocate in a duel with a witness whom he had rather outrageously abused-and, in the next place, it was thought sufficient to justify a public notification to him, on the part of the noble defendant, that his audacity should be punished by excluding him from all professional employment wherever his influence could extend. The insolence of such a communication might well have warranted a warlike reply. But Mr C. expressed his contempt in a gayer and not less effectual manner. Pretending to misunderstand the tenor of the message, he answered aloud, in the hearing of his friends, My good sir, you may tell his lordship, that it is in vain for him to be proposing terms of accommodation; for after what has happened, I protest I think, while I live, I shall never hold a brief for • him or one of his family.' The threat, indeed, proved as impotent as it was pitiful; for the spirit and talent which the young counsellor had displayed through the whole scene, not only brought him into unbounded popularity with the lower orders, but instantly raised him to a distinguished place in the ranks of his profession.
In 1783 Mr C. got a silk gown, and was brought into Parliament; and here properly commences the Political part of the work. Nothing can be so deplorable as the history of Ireland up to this epoch-except perhaps a part of its history since. But nothing can at the same time be more pregnant with warning and instruction, both as to the utter hopelessness of repressing Discontent by Severity, and as to the inefficacy of Parliaments that do not really represent the sense and the interests of the people. Ireland was governed for centuries by a native Par
liament--but it was so constituted as to have no sympathy with the body of the population; and her worst corruptions and oppressions were those that originated in its bosom. Her rulers, too, have at all times been in possession of an overwhelming force, by which to overbear and repress every appearance of resistance; and they have used it without measure or mercy-but with the most lamentable success. The great modern specifics for preserving tranquillity-coercion, intimidation, and punishment-have been lavishly and relentlessly administered in Ireland, from the earliest periods of her history down to the present day; and the result has been, not that she has been more tranquil than the other parts of the empire, but that she has been far more agitated. There has been no relaxation of the reins of authority in that unhappy country--no weak compliances with popular inclinations-no rash neglect of popular usurpations. The Government has always been strong and jealous, and prompt and efficacious—and has never yet had to reproach itself with ill-timed lenity, or menaces not carried into execution. Martial law, and military execution without the warrant of any law, have always been ready to combine their energies with those of coercive and disqualifying statutes and sweeping proscriptions; and spies and informers have been constantly employed and believed, to an extent elsewhere unheard of; and the consequence has been, not only that the country has been uniformly misgoverned and oppressed—that its trade and agriculture have been incredibly depressed, so that its revenue has always fallen short of the actual expense of its government-but that it has been, without intermission, in a state of the most frightful insecurity and disorder, or at least has passed, in a constant and miserable alternation, from the gloomy despair of one defeated insurrection to the desperate contrivance of another.
If these facts do not speak a loud memento to England--if they do not afford a practical answer to those who cry out against all reform, and think peace is only to be maintained by severity, we know not where to find in history any lessons of authority; or in what circumstances to look for a nearer parallel to the policy that is now in question among ourselves. There is one other feature in the Irish story, the application of which we most earnestly deprecate-but which it is necessary to state, in order to show the nature of the hazards, and the measure of the humiliation with which such policy is sure to be attended. The only great improvement which the Government received, was effected by an Armed Insurrection,--and wrung by force from the hands of those rulers by whose justice it would never have been yielded,