Imágenes de páginas

ositions in their full force, and to answer them fairly. I will not, as I am advancing towards them, with my mind's eye measure the height, breadth, and power of the proposition; if I find it beyond my strength, halve it; if still beyond my strength, quarter it; if still necessary, subdivide it into eighths; and when, by this process, I have reduced it to the proper standard, take one of these sections and toss it with an air of elephantine strength and superiority. If I find myself capable of conducting, by a fair course of reasoning, any one of his propositions to an absurd conclusion, I will not begin by stating that absurd conclusion as the proposition itself which I am going to encounter. I will not, in commenting on the Gentleman's authorities, thank the Gentleman, with sarcastic politeness, for introducing them, declare that they conclude directly against him, read just so much of the authority as serves the purpose of that declaration, omitting that which contains the true point of the case, which makes against me; nor, if forced by a direct call to read that part also, will I content myself by running over it as rapidly and inarticulately as I can, throw down the book with a theatrical air, and exclaim, "Just as I said!" when I know it is just as I had not said.

I know that, by adopting these arts, I might raise a laugh at the Gentleman's expense; but I should be very little pleased with myself, if I were capable of enjoying a laugh procured by such means. I know, too that, by adopting such arts, there will always be those standing around us, who have not comprehended the whole merits of the legal discussion, with whom I might shake the character of the Gentleman's science and judgment as a lawyer. I hope I shall never be capable of such a wish; and I had hoped that the Gentleman himself felt so strongly that proud, that high, aspiring, and ennobling magnanimity, which I had been told conscious talents rarely fail to inspire, that he would have disdained a poor and fleeting triumph, gained by means like these.

12. GUILT CANNOT KEEP ITS OWN SECRET. - Daniel Webster, on the trial of J F. Knapp, 1830, for murder.

AN aged man, without an enemy in the world, in his own house, and in his own bed, is made the victim of a butcherly murder, for mere pay. The fatal blow is given! and the victim passes, without a struggle or a motion, from the repose of sleep to the repose of death! It is the assassin's purpose to make sure work. He explores the wrist for the pulse. He feels for it, and ascertains that it beats no longer! It is accomplished. The deed is done. He retreats, retraces his steps to the window, passes out through it as he came in, and escapes. He has done the murder; no eye has seen him, no ear has heard him. The secret is his own, - and it is safe!

[ocr errors]

Ah! Gentlemen, that was a dreadful mistake. Such a secret can be safe nowhere. The whole creation of God has neither nook nor corner where the guilty can bestow it, and say it is safe.

Not to

speak of that eye which glances through all disguises, and beholds everything as in the splendor of noon, such secrets of guilt are never safe from detection, even by men. True it is, generally speaking, that "murder will out." True it is, that Providence hath so ordained, and doth so govern things, that those who break the great law of Heaven, by shedding man's blood, seldom succeed in avoiding discovery. Especially, in a case exciting so much attention as this, discovery must come, and will come, sooner or later. A thousand eyes turn at once to explore every man, every thing, every circumstance, connected with the time and place; a thousand ears catch every whisper; a thousand excited minds intensely dwell on the scene, shedding all their light, and ready to kindle the slightest circumstance into a blaze of discovery. Meantime, the guilty soul cannot keep its own secret. It is false to itself; or, rather, it feels an irresistible impulse of conscience to be true to itself. It labors under its guilty possession, and knows not what to do with it. The human heart was not made for the residence of such an inhabitant. It finds itself preyed on by a torment, which it dares not acknowledge to God nor man. A vulture is devouring it, and it can ask no sympathy or assistance, either from Heaven or earth. The secret which the murderer possesses soon comes to possess him; and, like the evil spirits of which we read, it overcomes him, and leads him whithersoever it will. He feels it beating at his heart, rising to his throat, and demanding disclosure. He thinks the whole world sees it in his face, reads it in his eyes, and almost hears its workings in the very silence of his thoughts. It has become his master. It betrays his discretion, it breaks down his courage, it conquers his prudence. When suspicions, from without, begin to embarrass him, and the net of circumstance to entangle him, the fatal secret struggles, with still greater violence, to burst forth. It must be confessed; it will be confessed; - there is no refuge from confession but suicide- - and suicide is confession!

13. MORAL POWER THE MOST FORMIDABLE.-Judge McLean, 1838, on enterprises from the U. States against the British possessions in Canada.

If there be any one line of policy in which all political parties agree, it is, that we should keep aloof from the agitations of other Governments; that we shall not intermingle our national concerns with theirs; and much more, that our citizens shall abstain from acts which lead the subjects of other Governments to violence and bloodshed. These violators of the Law show themselves to be enemies of their country, by trampling under foot its laws, compromising its honor, and involving it in the most serious embarrassment with a foreign and friendly Nation. It is, indeed, lamentable to reflect, that such men, under such circumstances, may hazard the peace of the country. If they were to come out in array against their own Government, the consequence to it would be far less serious. In such an effort, they could not involve it in much bloodshed, or in a heavy expenditure, nor

would its commerce and general business be materially injured. But a war with a powerful Nation, with whom we have the most extensive relations, commercial and social, would bring down upon our country the heaviest calamity. It would dry up the sources of its prosperity, and deluge it in blood.

The great principle of our Republican institutions cannot be propagated by the sword. This can be done by moral force, and not physical. If we desire the political regeneration of oppressed Nations, we must show them the simplicity, the grandeur, and the freedom, of our own Government. We must recommend it to the intelligence and virtue of other Nations, by its elevated and enlightened action, its purity, its justice, and the protection it affords to all its citizens, and the liberty they enjoy. And if, in this respect, we shall be faithful to the high bequests of our fathers, to ourselves, and to posterity, we shall do more to liberate other Governments, and emancipate their subjects, than could be accomplished by millions of bayonets. This moral power is what tyrants have most cause to dread. It addresses itself to the thoughts and the judgments of men. No physical force can arrest its progress. Its approaches are unseen, but its consequences are deeply felt. It enters garrisons most strongly fortified, and operates in the palaces of kings and emperors. We should cherish this power as essential to the preservation of our own Government; and as the most efficient means of ameliorating the condition of our race. And this can only be done by a reverence for the laws, and by the exercise of an elevated patriotism. But, if we trample under our feet the laws of our country, if we disregard the faith of treaties, and our citizens engage without restraint in military enterprises against the of other Governments, peace we shall be considered and treated, and justly, too, as a Nation of pirates.

14. THE DEATH PENALTY. - Original Translation from Victor Hugo.

From Victor Hugo's speech at the trial of his son, Charles Hugo, in Paris, June 11th, 1851, charged with violating the respect due to the laws, in an article in the journal "L' Évenement," upon the execution of Montcharmont, a sentenced criminal. Notwithstanding the father's eloquent appeal, Charles Hugo was found "guilty" by the Jury, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and a fine of five hundred francs.

GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY, if there is a culprit here, it is not my son, it is myself, it is I! - I, who for these last twenty-five years have opposed capital punishment, have contended for the inviolability of human life, have committed this crime, for which my son is now arraigned. Here I denounce myself, Mr. Advocate General! I have committed it under all aggravated circumstances; deliberately, repeatedly, tenaciously. Yes, this old and absurd (lex taliōnis· this law of blood for blood I have combated all my life all my life, Gentlemen of the Jury! And, while I have breath, I will continue to combat it, by all my efforts as a writer, by all my words and all con my votes as a that victim of the penalty of death, who sees and hears us; before that gibbet, to which, two thousand years ago, for the eternal instruction of the generations, the human law nailed the Divine!


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


Change force

In all that my son has written on the subject of capital punishment, and for writing and publishing which he is now before you on trial, -in all that he has written, he has merely proclaimed the sentiments with which, from his infancy. I have inspired him. Gentlemen Jurors, the right to criticize a law, and to criticize it severely, especially a penal law, is placed beside the duty of amelioration, like the torch beside the work under the artisan's hand. This right of the journalist is as sacred, as necessary, as imprescriptible, as the right of the legislator. Chaver

[ocr errors]


What are the circumstances?

A man, a convict, a sentenced
is on a certain to one of our
There he finds the scaffold! He shudders, he struggles, he refuses to
die. He is young yet-only twenty-nine. Ah! I know what you
will say,
"He is a murderer!" But hear me. Two officers seize
him. His hands, his feet, are tied. He throws off the two officers. A
frightful struggle ensues. His feet, bound as they are, become entan-
gled in the ladder. He uses the scaffold against the scaffold! The
struggle is prolonged Horror seizes on the crowd The officers,-
sweat and shame on their brows, - pale, panting, terrified, despairing,

of the Jury, they cla

- despairing with I know not what horrible despair, - shrinking under that public reprobation which ought to have visited the penalty, and spared the passive instrument, the executioner, the officers strive savagely. The victim clings to the scaffold, and shrieks for pardon, His clothes are torn, - his shoulders bloody, still he resists. At length, after three quarters of an hour of this monstrous effort, of this spectacle without a name, of this agony, - agony for all, be it understood, agony for the assembled spectators as well as for the condemned man, after this age of anguish, Gentlemen of the Jury, they take back the poor wretch to his prison. The People breathe again. The People, naturally merciful, hope that the man will be spared. But no-the guillotine, though vanquished, remains standing. There it frowns all day, in the midst of a sickened population. And at night, the officers, reinforced, drag forth the wretch again, so bound that he is but an inert weight, they drag him forth, haggard, bloody, weeping, pleading, howling for life, calling upon God, calling upon his father and mother, for like a very child had this man become in the prospect of death,, they drag him forth to execution. He is hoisted on to the scaffold, and his head falls! And then through every conscience runs a shudder. Never had legal murder appeared with an aspect so indecent, so abominable. All feel jointly implicated in the deed. It is at this moment that from a young man's breast escapes and cry, wrung from his very heart, acry of pity and of anguish, cry of horror, a cry of humanity. And this cry you would punish!) And, in face of the appalling facts which I have narrated, you would say to the guillotine, "Thou art right!" and to Pity, saintly Pity, "Thou art wrong!" Gentlemen of the Jury, it cannot be! Gentlemen, I have finished.




[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]



1. THE EXAMPLE OF AMERICA. - Francis Jeffrey. Born, 1773; died, 1850.

How absurd are the sophisms and predictions by which the advocates of existing abuses have, at all times, endeavored to create a jealousy and apprehension of reform! You cannot touch the most corrupt and imbecile Government, without involving society in disorders at once frightful and contemptible, and reducing all things to the level of an insecure, and ignoble, and bloody equality! Such are the reasonings by which we are now to be persuaded that liberty is incompatible with private happiness or national prosperity. To these we need not now answer in words, or by reference to past and questionable examples; but we put them down at once, and trample them contemptuously to the earth, by a short appeal to the existence and condition of America! What is the country of the universe, I would now ask, in which property is most sacred, or industry most sure of its reward? Where is the authority of most omnipotent? Where is intelligence and wealth most widely diffused, and most rapidly progressive? Where, but in America?-in America, who laid the foundation of her Republican Constitution in a violent, radical, sanguinary Revolution; America, with her fundamental Democracy, made more unmanageable, and apparently more hazardous, by being broken up into I do not know how many confederated and independent Democracies; America, with universal suffrage, and yearly elections, with a free and unlicensed Press, without an established Priesthood, an hereditary Nobility, or a permanent Executive, with all that is combustible, in short, and pregnant with danger, on the hypothesis of Tyranny, and without one of the checks or safeguards by which alone, they contend, the benefits or the very being of society can be maintained!

There is something at once audacious and ridiculous in maintaining such doctrines, in the face of such experience. Nor can anything be founded on the novelty of these institutions, on the pretence that they have not yet been put fairly to their trial. America has gone on prospering under them for forty years, and has exhibited a picture of uninterrupted, rapid, unprecedented advances in wealth, population, intelligence, and concord; while all the arbitrary Governments of the

« AnteriorContinuar »