« PreviousContinue »
WARREN HASTINGS, ESQUIRE.
WEDNESDAY, 28TH MAY, 1794.
FIRST DAY OF REPLY.
MY LORDS,―This business which has so long employed the public councils of this kingdom, so long employed the greatest and most august of its tribunals, now approaches to a close. The wreck and fragments of our cause (which has been dashed to pieces upon rules by which your lordships have thought fit to regulate its progress) await your final determination. Enough, however, of the matter is left to call for the most exemplary punishment, that any tribunal ever inflicted upon any criminal; and yet, my lords, the prisoner, by the plan of his defence, demands not only an escape, but a triumph. It is not enough for him to be acquitted, the Commons of Great Britain must be condemned; and your lordships must be the instruments of his glory, and of our disgrace. This is the issue upon which he has put this cause, and the issue upon which we are obliged to take it now, and to provide for it hereafter.
My lords, I confess that at this critical moment I feel myself oppressed with an anxiety, that no words can adequately The effect of all our labors, the result of all our
inquiries, is now to be ascertained. You, my lords, are now to determine, not only whether all these labors have been vain and fruitless, but whether we have abused so long the public patience of our country, and so long oppressed merit, instead of avenging crime. I confess I tremble, when I consider that your judgment is now going to be passed, not on the culprit at your bar, but upon the House of Commons itself, and upon the public justice of this kingdom, as represented in this great tribunal. It is not that culprit who is upon trial, it is the House of Commons that is upon its trial, it is the House of Lords that is upon its trial, it is the British nation that is upon its trial before all other nations, before the present generation, and before a long, long posterity.
My lords, I should be ashamed, if at this moment I attempted to use any sort of rhetorical blandishments whatever. Such artifices would neither be suitable to the body that I represent, to the cause which I sustain, or to my own individual disposition upon such an occasion. My lords, we know very well what these fallacious blandishments too frequently are. We know that they are used to captivate the benevolence of the court, and to conciliate the affections of the tribunal rather to the person than to the cause. We know that they are used to stifle the remonstrances of conscience in the judge, and to reconcile it to the violation of his duty. We likewise know, that they are too often used in great and important causes (and more particularly in causes like this) to reconcile the prosecutor to the powerful factions of a protected criminal, and to the injury of those who have suffered by his crimes; thus inducing all parties to separate in a kind of good humor, as if they had nothing more than a verbal dispute to settle, or a slight quarrel over a table to compromise. All this may now be done at the expense of the persons whose cause we pretend to espouse. We may all part, my lords, with the most perfect complacency, and entire good humor towards one another; while nations, whole suffering nations, are left to
beat the empty air with cries of misery and anguish, and to cast forth to an offended heaven the imprecations of disappointment and despair.
One of the counsel for the prisoner (I think it was one who has comported himself in this cause with decency) has told your lordships, that we have come here on account of some doubts entertained in the House of Commons, concerning the conduct of the prisoner at your bar; that we shall be extremely delighted when his defence, and your lordships' judgment shall have set him free, and shall have discovered to us our error; that we shall then mutually congratulate one another, and that the Commons, and the managers who represent them here, will be the first to rejoice in so happy an event, and so fortunate a discovery.
Far, far from the Commons of Great Britain be all manner of real vice; but ten thousand times farther from them, as far as from pole to pole, be the whole tribe of false, spurious, affected, counterfeit, hypocritical virtues. These are the things which are ten times more at war with real virtue, these are the things which are ten times more at war with real duty, than any vice known by its name, and distinguished by its proper character.
My lords, far from us, I will add, be that false and affected candor, that is eternally in treaty with crime; that half virtue, which, like the ambiguous animal that flies about in the twilight of a compromise between day and night, is to a just man's eye an odious and disgusting thing. There is no middle point, in which the Commons of Great Britain can meet tyranny and oppression. No; we never shall (nor can we conceive that we ever should) pass from this bar, without indignation, without rage and despair, if the House of Commons should, upon such a defence as has here been made against such a charge as they have produced, be foiled, baffled, and defeated. No, my lords, we never could forget it; a long, lasting, deep, bitter memory of it would sink into our minds.