Page images
PDF
EPUB

he is an illustration of the truth that “a pretty fellow is but half a man.

These are the three chief witnesses of the prosecution—Gay, Phelps, and Lake. It is easily seen, that the plot before us is the work of Phelps alone, conceived and contrived for his own gain, and to gratify his own revenge; that the agents of the railroad company, misled and deceived, have furnished him redundant means and subordinates of his own choice. Gay, while living, if not an instrument, was a dupe. Lake is manifestly an instrument in Phelps' hands.

But, gentlemen, the malice of Phelps cannot be understood without knowing the character and circumstances of him who was the object of his revenge. Abel F. Fitch was a native of Connecticut, aged, when he appeared before you, forty-three years. He had a strong mind and considerable education. He came to Michigan in 1837, and, with a fortune belonging to himself and wife, which was small in Connecticut, he was a rich man in the oak openings of Michigan. No man, not even one among all that cloud of accusers which gathered around him here, ever charged him with irsincerity or falsehood. He whom you saw brought here as a felon on the 19th of April, was on the 7th of that month, elected, and without a dissenting ballot, as I have been told, justice of the peace and supervisor of his town. He was gentle, just, and humane, the friend and patron of the poor, and their gratitude crowned him with unequalled popularity. You have seen the house of Henry Phelps in Sylvan. You remember how dark and desolate it was—its low, naked walls, its windows glazed with clapboards, its scanty furniture, its doors closed and suspiciously fastened, its master and mistress abroad all over the state, looking up long lost relations, while a malefactor was pursuing his dangerous vocation there, unseen. You remember the half-thatched barn, that was empty of every thing but refuse hay to conceal unlawful things in the manger. You remember the fuel gathered from the waste timber of the railroad, although the dwelling was almost in the midst of the forest. How truly all this illustrates the darkness of the spirit that inhabited there. You have seen, also, the dwelling of Abel F. Fitch, at Michigan Centre, shaded with trees planted by his own hands. It is neat, spacious and elegant. You remember the prairie rose clustering over its piazzas and verandahs. Though

the owner of the mansion was childless, yet its chambers were wont to ring with the merry voices of children. Books, pictures, and musical instruments meet you on every side. The garden exhibits the flowers of every month from early spring till the returning frosts. Ample orchards yield the choicest fruits; a park filled with deer, and a lake in which the wild birds forget their native home, increase the attractions of the domain. That domain extends over five hundred acres; and when you saw it, was covered with wheat ready for the harvest, and cattle, which proved not only the care but the enlightened taste and public spirit of a country gentleman. Was this the home of an incendiary, a conspirator, a felon? Were not these felicities of fortune enough to excite the malice of an enemy to the exaltation of revenge?

Gentlemen, I trust that I have proved that the conspiracy alleged in this case, presents an immaterial issue, and is false in fact; that the case rests on evidence of admissions only, proved by three witnesses, Gay, Phelps, and Lake; that the evidences of those admissions are false, because the facts supposed to be confessed are impossible, while the admissions are unworthy of credit, because they are unsupported by circumstantial evidence, and the witnesses who present them are unworthy of belief, and their testimony is contradictory, and is in conflict with facts incontestibly established. If these positions are true, it follows that this prosecution is the result of a conspiracy against the defendants. You have evidence of that conspiracy in the malicious threats of Wescott and Phelps ; in an allusion by Phelps, showing an understanding with Wescott; in a negotiation between Phelps and Gay to predicate a plot on the casual burning of the depot in Detroit, on the 19th of November last, a plot for the ruin of innocent men; in the fraudulent manufacture of those harmless but fearful tokens, contrived to obtain credit for the narrative of Phelps; in the fraudulent transfer of those tokens, by those who fabricated them, to the possession of Gay and of Filley; and in the cunningly devised narrative of Phelps and Lake. But I will not follow that subject further. It belongs to another prosecution—a different tribunal—perhaps, to a distant jurisdiction. It is enough for our present purpose that the defendants are not guilty.

Gentlemen, in the middle of the fourth month, we draw near to the end of what has seemed to be an endless labor. While we have been here events have transpired, which have roused national

[ocr errors]

ambition-kindled national resentment-drawn forth national

sympathies, and threatened to disturb the tranquillity of empires. He who, although He worketh unseen, yet worketh irresistibly and unceasingly, hath suspended neither His guardian care nor His paternal discipline over ourselves. Some of you have sickened and convalesced. Others have parted with cherished ones, who, removed before they had time to contract the stain of earth, were already prepared for the Kingdom of Heaven. There have been changes, too, among the unfortunate men whom I have defended. The sound of the hammer has died away in the workshops of some; the harvests have ripened and wasted in the fields of others. Want, and fear, and sorrow have entered into all their dwellings. Their own rugged forms have drooped; their sunburnt brows have blanched; and their hands have become as soft to the pressure of friendship as yours or mine. One of them--a vagrant boy—whom I found imprisoned here for a few extravagant words, that perhaps, he never uttered, has pined away and died. Another, he who was feared, hated and loved most of all, has fallen in the vigor of life,

" hacked down,

His thick summer leaves all faded." When such an one falls, amid the din and smoke of the battlefield, our emotions are overpowered—suppressed—lost in the excitement of public passion. But when he perishes a victim of domestic or social strife—when we see the iron enter his soul, and see it, day by day, sink deeper and deeper, until nature gives way, and he lies lifeless at our feet—then there is nothing to check the flow of forgiveness, compassion and sympathy. If, in the moment when he is closing his eyes on earth, he declares : “I have committed no crime against my country; I die a martyr for the liberty of speech and perish of a broken heart”—then, indeed do we feel that the tongues of dying men enforce attention, like deep harmony. Who would willingly consent to decide on the guilt or innocence of one who has thus been withdrawn from our erring judgment to the tribunal of eternal justice? Yet it cannot be avoided. If Abel F. Fitch was guilty of the crime charged in this indictment, every man here may nevertheless be innocent; but if he was innocent, then there is not one of these, his associates in life, who can be guilty. Try him, then, since you mustcondemn him, if you must—and with him condemn them. But

remember that you are mortal, and he is now immortal; and that before the tribunal where he stands, you must stand and confront him, and vindicate your judgment. Remember, too, that he is now free. He has not only left behind him the dungeon, the cell and the chain ; but he exults in a freedom, compared with which, the liberty we enjoy is slavery and bondage. You stand, then, between the dead and the living. There is no need to bespeak the exercise of your caution of your candor—and of your impartiality. You will, I am sure, be just to the living, and true to your country; because, under circumstances so solemn-50 full of awe -you cannot be unjust to the dead, nor false to your country, nor

your God.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

INDEX TO VOL. I.

A. .

D.
PAGE.

PAGE.
Abolition of Slavery (see Emancipa- DEBATES IN SENATE OF UNITED STATES. 284
tion).

On Rev. Theobald Mathew's Re-
Adams, John Quincy, and Intervention 216 ception. :

284
Agitation and Compromises.... 108 Discipline in the Navy... 285
AMERICAN STEAM NAVIGATION.

222 The Right of Petition......... 287
American Fisheries, The.

254 Granting Land to Emigrants... 289
Amin Bey, debate on......
321 The Census...

296
Anti-masonry Vindicated..

34
Sir John Franklin..

298
Apportionment for California. 858 Internal Improvement in New
ARCTIC AND PACIFIC OCEANS.

236
States...

302
ARGUMENTS, FORENSIC.

391
The Patent Laws..

308
Ayes and Nays on Welcome to Kossuth 185

Peon Slavery.

311
Ayes and Nays on Dixon's Seat...... 283 The Compromise Bill... 312

Reception of Amin Bey. 321
B.

Pre-emption to Emigrants..... 322

Mining Privileges to Emigrants 323
Bank of the U. S., Remarks on....

.17, 30

Commerce of the Pacific.. 326
Boundary of Texas. .....

69

A Mint in New York.... 328
Bounty to Texas..

97
The Senatorial Term.

332
Bulwer, Clayton and, Treaty.

376

Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott.. 334
Burke's Supposed Speech..

225
Cheap Postage....

336
C.

344
Revenues of California..

Improvement of Rivers and
CALIFORNIA, ADMISSION OF, SPEECH. .51, 95

Harbors......

345
Its Interests...

247 Contested Seat of Senator Yulee 347
Privileges to Emigrants to 323 The Repeal of the Fugitive
Census of...

358
Slave Law...

348
Revenues of.....

344 Pension to Widow of Gen. Worth 351

358
Apportionment for...

Collins Steamers.

352
Canal, St. Marie's, Debate.
367 Steamers to Hamburg.

353
Catlin's Indian Gallery....

370
Louis Kossuth's Letter.

355
Census, The Debate on.......

296 Duties on Gifts to Convents.... 356
Clay, Henry, and Intervention........ 213 Expedition to Japan.
Clayton and Bulwer's Treaty.
376 St. Marie's Canal..

357
CLAYTON, JOHN M., Defence of..

376

Apportionment for California.. 358
COLLINS STEAMERS The, Speech on..... 222

The Patent Laws..

361
Collins Steamers, Debate.....

352 War Steamers for Harbor De-
COLUMBIA, Dis. OF, FREEDOM IN, Speech 111

fence.....

367
Compromises, Remarks on 61, 94, 109, 312 Catlin's Indian Gallery.

370
Contested Seat of Senator Dixon..... 278 The Fisheries...

373
Contested Seat of Senator Yulee.... 347 The Clayton & Nicaragua Treaty 376
Cooper vs. Greeley, Case of.... 391 Death of Senator Upham, Eulogy 387
Currency, The Remarks on...... 271 (See Vol. III for continuation.)

356 ,

« PreviousContinue »