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stitution, which it implies to be defunct, 'such funereal decorations will, on the Bench, be quite misplaced. From a high priest of Opposition, in St. Stephen's Chapel, it may be questioned whether sepulchral rites of this kind would be endured. But, at least, the temple of justice is no fit theatre for their celebration; the ermined magistrate no proper functionary to preside at their performance.
How shall we best determine the topics proper for a Charge? By defining the legitimate functions of those to whom it is addressed. In the one in question, for example, whatever tended to assist those to whom it was delivered, collectively as grand jurors, or individually as magistrates, to discharge the important duties which either character imposed, was regularly and correctly introduced into that discourse ;- provided always (in legal phrase) that nothing therein contained was deficient in respect towards those high authorities in the State, ? to whom as much deference is due from the judges of the land, as these may, in turn, claim from the forensic auditories to which they dictate.
It is nearly superfluous for me here, in a sort of parenthesis, to observe that the text to which my present commentaries all apply, is a short publication, entitled Judge Fletcher's Charge. Where the contents of this impute any thing reprehensible to the Judge, I am most willing to suppose that the publisher has misreported ; 3 and should it unexpectedly turn out that passages, of which I presume to question the propriety, involve no misrepresentation of what his Lordship said, I shall in such cases be disposed to doubt the justice of my censure; or admit, at the very least, that whatever fell from that learned Judge, was by him pronounced with the most laudable intentions.
But to return to the test which I have ventured to establish. Which of his duties is a grand juror assisted to discharge, by being informed that rents are grown exorbitantly high? Is he therefore to throw out bills of indictment against those, who with a strong and lawless hand, would preclude all competition,--and terrifying every rival bidder into silence, establish a comfortably cheap maximum for farms? The assertion of Judge Fletcher, that lands bear too high a price, may be, and I fear is, in some degree well found
1"Gentlemen, two Bills have recently passed both Houses of Parliament
one of these Acts consists of a complete suspension of the Constitution.”-Judge Fletcher's Charge.
2 That passage is not too respectful, in which it is suggested that two important Bills, one suspending the Constitution, passed both Houses of Parliament, without inquiry into the state of the country, and alınost without observation.
3 It may be inadvertently.
ed; and though my information on the subject does not qualify me to be decisive, I will never stigmatise as falsehood, what I conjecture to be truth. But will the opinion of a judge operate to lower the 'rates of land ? Is it not more likely to raise our peasants than to reduce our rents? I doubt the wisdom of proclaining a grievance, which we cannot cure: of proclaiming it to an irritated and deluded population—too long and successfully tampered with by the agents of sedition; and who now assured upon authority, that they are right in thinking themselves (aggrieved, may conclude that they are proceeding under the same high sanction, when aiming through violence and outrage at redress, they but fly from grievance,' to take refuge in destruction. The Judge's charge yet tingliog in their ears, shall a grand jury, full of the extravagant and grinding price of land, send to trial a starving tenant, who would have “reformed” the crying evil, and this not “indifferently, but “ altogether?"2 Shall a petty jury convict the patriot of a capital offence—the judge sentence him to undergo the heaviest penalties of the law-and, with the passage on which I am commenting, of his prelection before his eyes, decline even to recommend to a portion of the royal mercy, this redresser of what himself had called intolerable grievance?-Might not our injured and neglected convict undertake to recommend himself--and copy into hís niemorial the very words of our learned judge? 3 Might he not dwell upon “ the extravagant rents which are bid for lands," for which “the uttermost penny is exacted by absentees, who strip their Irish tenants of even the comforts of an English sow?-who letting their lands when out of lease, by public auction to the highest bidder, have no gratitude for past services, no preference of the fair offer, no predilection for the ancient tenantry, be these never 'so deserving," in short, who feel no attacliment to any thing but “the highest price," and visit “ with depopulation the tract of country which withholds it?” Proceeding in his complaint, to that “ harasse, ing payment of" tithe,” which is so unmercifully “superadded to these exactions,” might he not close the climax, with those enormous “county charges,” which gleaning the scanty profits, that räck-rents had left behind, cruelly waste the poor man's pittance on the rich man's job? Might he not then terminate his expostulation by inquiring, chased from the spot where his earliest breath was drawn, incapable of devising other means than tillage, of existence, what the oppressed and wretched peasant was to do? Was it “sur
If this exist. 2 As Hamlet advised the Players to do. 3 Those, I mean, which are ascribed to him by the printed Charge.
prising, if thus harassed, he felt nothing to remain, but with strong hand to deter the intruder from his farm, and extort from the weakness and terrors of his landlord a preference which his gratitude and good feelings should have given?”
I do not say (would to Heaven I could !) that no part of the above picture is fairly taken from the life ;--and if the passages which I have extracted from what is called Judge Fletcher's Chargé, did really form a part of what he said, -I make allowance for the generous sentiment which hurried hiin into such description ; and heartily do I wish that, by removing the foul origir. I, any selfish subcrners of outrage who may have supplied it, would prevent the honest indiscretion of a judge from exposing so disgusting a likeness to public view. But in the mean time, I not only doubt whe-" ther the copy be not overcharged; but more than doubt the prudence of exhibiting to an excited populace what seems but too well calculated to goad their discontent; and might, to minds so unenlightened, appear to justify their excesses.
Its connexion with England I think essential to the well-being of this country. But in the best of what is human, evil lurks among the good. From great blemishes no sublunary establishment can be free; and optimus ille est, qui minimis urgetur, is all that can be said. Thus amongst the pernicious but inevitable fruits of that connexion, which yet we pronounce to be invaluable on the whole, we shall feel ourselves obliged to enumerate absentees. Let our statesmen do their best (they cannot well be more usefully em-' ployed) to mitigate an evil, which they cannot radically curé. But let us not rivet our attention on the ill, and overlook tlre good, which so much more than countervails it. Above all, let the judges of this land beware how they feed a disaffection, to which our commonalty seems too prone ; and which our traitors have been long with fatal industry fomenting.
To that part of the Charge (as published) which relates to our paper currency, the remarks which I have just been making on another part, apply. Why tender our seductive pity to the embryo utterer of a forged note, whom, when on the faith of this compassion he shall have uttered it, we must hang ? The invitation to “ Master Barnardine” was less deceitful; when called on to “come out,” he was fairly told it was to lose his head. But who have in fact deluged the country“ with this paper?” Napoleon and his allies; amongst whom with grief and shame we must include those Irish friends, who long since clamorously anticipated Judge Fletcher's grievance list ;' and who are now reported to be as loud
As given in the publication above noticed.
in their commendation of his Charge. But has not Government done its utmost to check these “snows of paper,” and remove the effect, by annihilating the cause ? Have not their efforts at length been crowned, by that pacific consummation, long so little to be hoped for, yet so devoutly to be wished ? Meantime, without the help of a circulating medium, could the internal traffic of the country be carried on? For this, were we not obliged to content ourselves with paper? And was it not indispensable, towards the maintenance of public credit, to guard against those frauds and adulterations, to which a currency of this sort is inevitably exposed ? Again, how are the ruling powers, or higher orders of the State, .. responsible for the establishment or “ lailure of private banks ?” Or what have magistrates, grand jurors, or judges to do with this? Why then-by describing this paper currency, with its fruits, as one amongst the principal causes of disturbance,-resort to what, involving no just censure upon Government, and suggesting no possible measure of correction, must be confessed, if it does not palliate (and thereby encourage) crime, to be a nugatory topic, accomplishing absolutely nothing ?
The publication which I am examining proceeds as follows :" In the next place, the country has seen a magistracy, over-active in some instances, and quite supine in others." The propriety of referring the disturbances of Ireland to the demerits of a body, 3 which the public ought to respect, I cannot avoid doubting; and must, therefore, be allowed to question. It is observable, too, that the sentence which, thus stigmatizing the national magistracy en masse, echoes+ language, with which faction had long rendered us familiar, seems also to envelope my Lord Chancellor in blame; for having neglected to exercise those censorial powers, with which the constitution is supposed to clothe him. That it is the Judge's duty, and thereby becomes his right, to animadvert on, and represent, the conduct of all magistrates who come within the sphere of his assize commission, must be at once admitted ; and is not here denied. With me the only question is that already raised, viz. whether it be decorous or expedient, to address to the populace an anathema from the bench, denouncing the corps of magistracy in Ireland as tainted ;-thus stamping a degree of credit on the uproars of sedition ; and impliedly censuring the highest dignitary of the law, for having suffered a contagion so mischievous to spread,
" And to which alone my observations are to be confined.
Grant this body to be ansound and you indeed admit that “ Justice is poisoned at its source ;” inasmuch as to informations, taken before some justice of the peace, nearly the whole of our Crown proceedings may be traced. Nevertheless, since a scrutiny has been thus publicly demanded, (with honest zeal we must presume, but surely not with sound discretion,) I make no doubt that, if requisite or expedient, it will be granted; and though it must be extremely irksome, and difficult to carry on,-yet conducted with delicacy, firinness, and circumspection, it might possibly be attended with advantageous results. Perhaps some instances of supineness and activity could be shown. But with respect to the latter, let me be understood to hold, that a genuinely active magistrate is as respectable as he is useful. One I mean, whose activity, no less deliberate than prompt, does not compromise his dignity; much less hurry or betray his justice. . A magistrate cannot be.“over active," as long as bis exertions are of a right and appropriate kind; which they will be, while conducting himself with iutegrity and dea corum, he marks the limits of bis duty, and never steps beyond them. That cannot be esorbitant which keeps within its orbit. A gadding and counterfeit activity must therefore be what the learned Judge condemns; and from his reprobation of this, I do not disagree. It is one of those excesses into which men are betrayed, who, instead of confining themselves within their proper spheres, are like Bottom, ambitious of acting many parts. A man's conduct in his private capacity I do not seek to fetter : but, in his public character, every magistrate is a judge; who, whether he be justice of the peace, King's Bench, or Common Pleas, should never seek, while acting ex officio, to pass the settled live which circumscribes his province; but ought, in each of those situations, to be that pietate gravis vir, whose appearance is the signal for tranquillity and decorum : one who regit dictis animos, et pectora mulcet ; who assuages and controuls; not irritates or inflames.' Never (so far as human infirmity will allow) should prejudice or passion be seen to warp his iinpartiality; or ruffle the even tenor of his judicial calm. · The Orange Societies, as one of the causes of disturbance, supply its next topic to the printed Charge. The learned Judge is there represented to have affirmed, “ without any hesitation," (for which, indeed, there was no room,)“ that all associations of persons” (the capital letters are not mine) “ bound to each other by the obligation of an oath, in a league for a common purpose, endangering the peace of the country, are combinations contrary to law."
'Especially if he have to do with matter so combustible as the ignobile vulgus.