« ПретходнаНастави »
sides of an oppressed fellow-citizen ;- if this shall be the impression on your consciences and understandings, when you are called upon to deliver your verdict; then hear from me that you not only work private injustice, but break up the press of England, and surrender her 5 rights and liberties forever, if you convict the defendant.
Gentlemen, to enable you to form a true judgment of the meaning of this book and of the intention of its author, and to expose the miserable juggle that is played off in the information by the combination of sentences 10 which, in the work itself, have no bearing upon one another, I will first give you the publication as it is charged upon the record and presented by the AttorneyGeneral in opening the case for the Crown; and I will then, by reading the interjacent matter, which is studi- 15 ously kept out of view, convince you of its true interpretation.
The information, beginning with the first page of the book, charges as a libel upon the House of Commons the following sentence : The House of Commons has now 20 given its final decision with regard to the merits and demerits of Mr. Hastings. The grand inquest of England have delivered their charges, and preferred their impeachment; their allegations are referred to proof; and from the appeal to the collective wisdom and justice of the 25 nation, in the supreme tribunal of the kingdom, the question comes to be determined whether Mr. Hastings be guilty or not guilty ? "
It is but fair, however, to admit that this first sentence, which the most ingenious malice cannot torture into a 30 criminal construction, is charged by the information rather as introductory to what is made to follow it than as libellous in itself; for the Attorney-General, from this introductory passage in the first page, goes on at a leap to page thirteenth, and reads, almost without a stop, as 35
if it immediately followed the other, this sentence: “What credit can we give to multiplied and accumulated charges when we find that they originate from misrepresentation and falsehood ? " 5 From these two passages thus standing together, with
out the intervenient matter which occupies thirteen pages, one would imagine that, instead of investigating the probability or improbability of the guilt imputed to Mr.
Hastings ; instead of carefully examining the Charges of 10 the Commons, and the defence of them which had been
delivered before them, or which was preparing for the Lords; the author had immediately, and in a moment after stating the mere fact of the impeachment, decided
that the act of the Commons originated from misrep15 resentation and falsehood.
Gentlemen, in the same manner a veil is cast over all that is written in the next seven pages; for, knowing that the context would help to the true construction, not
only of the passages charged before, but of those in the 20 sequel of this information, the Attorney-General, aware
that it would convince every man who read it that there was no intention in the author to calumniate the House of Commons, passes over, by another leap, to page twenty;
and in the same manner, without drawing his breath, 25 and as if it directly followed the two former sentences
in the first and thirteenth pages, reads from page twentieth, “ An impeachment of error in judgment with regard to the quantum of a fine, and for an intention that
never was executed, and never known to the offending 30 party, characterizes a tribunal of inquisition rather than a Court of Parliament.”
From this passage, by another vault, he leaps over one-and-thirty pages more, to page fifty-one, where he
reads the following sentence, which he mainly relies on, 35 and upon which I shall by and by trouble you with some observations : “ Thirteen of them passed in the House of Commons, not only without investigation, but without being read; and the votes were given without inquiry, argument, or conviction. A majority had determined to impeach ; opposite parties met each other, and jostled 5 in the dark,' to perplex the political drama, and bring the hero to a tragic catastrophe.”
From thence, deriving new vigor from every exertion, he makes his last grand stride over forty-four pages more, almost to the end of the book, charging a sentence 10 in the ninety-fifth page.
So that, out of a volume of one hundred and ten pages, the defendant is only charged with a few scattered fragments of sentences, picked out of three or four. Out of a work consisting of about two thousand five hundred 15 and thirty lines of manly, spirited eloquence, only forty or fifty lines are culled from different parts of it, and artfully put together, so as to rear up a libel out of a false context, by a supposed connection of sentences with one another which are not only entirely independent, 20 but which, when compared with their antecedents, bear a totally different construction. In this manner the greatest works upon government, the most excellent books of science, the sacred Scriptures themselves, might be distorted into libel; by forsaking the general context, 25 and hanging a meaning upon selected parts. Thus, as in the text put by Algernon Sidney, “ The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," the Attorney-General, on the principle of the present proceeding against this pamphlet, might indict the publisher of the Bible for 30 blasphemously denying the existence of Heaven in printing, “ There is no God; " — these words alone, without the context, would be selected by the information, and the Bible, like this book, would be underscored to meet it..nor could the defendant, in such a case, have any 35
possible defence, unless the jury were permitted to see, by the book itself, that the verse, instead of denying the existence of the Divinity, only imputed that imagination to a fool.
Gentlemen, having now gone through the AttorneyGeneral's reading, the book shall presently come forward and speak for itself; but before I can venture to lay it
it is proper to call your attention to how matters stood at the time of its publication, without 10 which the author's meaning and intention cannot possibly be understood.
The Commons of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, had accused Mr. Hastings, as Governor-General of
Bengal, of high crimes and misdemeanors; and their 15 jurisdiction, for that high purpose of national justice,
was unquestionably competent; but it is proper you should know the nature of this inquisitorial capacity. The Commons, in voting an impeachment, may be com
pared to a grand jury finding a bill of indictment for the 20 Crown: neither the one nor the other can be supposed to
proceed but upon the matter which is brought before them; neither of them can find guilt without accusation, nor the truth of accusation, without evidence. When,
therefore, we speak of the accuser or accusers of a person 25 indicted for any crime, although the grand jury are the
prosecutors in form, by giving effect to the accusation, yet, in common parlance, we do not consider them as the responsible authors of the prosecution. If I were to
write of a most wicked indictment, found against an 30 innocent man, which was preparing for trial, nobody who
read it would conceive I meant to stigmatize the grand jury that found the bill; but it would be inquired immediately, who was the prosecutor and who were the witness
es on the back of it? In the same manner I mean to 35 contend that if this book is read with only common atten
tion, the whole scope of it will be discovered to be this: that, in the opinion of the author, Mr. Hastings had been accused of mal-administration in India from the heat and spleen of political divisions in Parliament, and not from any zeal for national honor or justice; that the impeach-5 ment did not originate from Government, but from a faction banded against it, which, by misrepresentation and violence, had fastened it on an unwilling House of Commons; that, prepossessed with this sentiment - which, however unfounded, makes no part of the present busi- 10 ness, since the publisher is not called before you for defaming individual members of the Commons, but for a contempt of the Commons as a body — the author pursues the charges, article by article ; ente into a warm and animated vindication of Mr. Hastings, by regular answers to 15 each of them; and that, as far as the mind and soul of a man can be visible — I might almost say embodied his writings, his intention throughout the whole volume appears to have been to charge with injustice the private accusers of Mr. Hastings, and not the House of Commons 20 as a body, which undoubtedly rather reluctantly gave way to, than heartily adopted, the impeachment. This will be found to be the palpable scope of the book; and no man who can read English, and who, at the same time, will have the candor and common sense to take up 25 his impressions from what is written in it, instead of bringing his own along with him to the reading of it, can possibly understand it otherwise.
But it may be said, admitting this to be the scope and design of the author, what right had he to canvass 30 the merits of an accusation upon the records of the Commons, more especially while it was in the course of legal procedure ? This, I confess, might have been a serious .question ; but the Commons, as prosecutors of this information, seem to have waived or forfeited their right to 35