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I knew a popular topic, upon which I could mislead you upon the law, I would not urge it to you-and I assure you, that in what I shall address to the Court, upon the Convention Act, I shall think myself precluded from directing a a single observation, or a single look to the jurybox.
I know, Gentlemen, that we live in extraordinary times ; I know that factious and wicked men have taken the most unjustifiable means to pre-occupy and mislead the public mind I know that the press has overflowed with the most audacious and libellous publications, presumptuously dictating to the Judges of the land, in the discharge of their duty, and inculcating upon Juries, a contempt for the authority of the Court ;-I know that county meetings have been convened throughout the island, that Country Gentlemen might enlighten the courts of justice, by their readings upon acts of Parliament ;-and I know that the Keeper of the Great Seal has been taught the law by a Justice of the Peace. But, Gentlemen, I trust in God, that those monstrous and alarming novelties may never find their way within the walls of a court. They well become the agitators, and the demagogues out of doors, who, without such practices, could not inflame, or mislead the public mind ; but I trust that the temple of justice may never be prophaned by doctrines so offensive to the principles of the Constitution. That Constitution defines with rigid exactness, the respective duties of the Bench, and the Jury-box. Every constitutional mind is appalled by the alarm which is excited, by confounding the functions of those contiguous tribunals. Every one would be shocked by the notion, that the Judge should interfere with the Jury's right to decide upon the fact, and yet it is not more revolting to constitutional maxims, than that the Jury should arrogate to themselves to pronounce upon the law.—They are, equally, encroachments, and invasions upon our pure administration of public justice, and if ever they be permitted, woe to the Constitution; it could not survive such an assault. What is there in the Constitution, the subject of so much eulogy and declamation this day, so valuable, as the administration of justice? We love the Constitution, because it gives us, for the preservation of public peace, and the adjustment of civil rights, a perfect administration of justice, unknown to other countries, which, in its turn, supports, maintains, and preserves that Constitution. Woe then to that Constitution, (I borrow the strong exclanations of Mr. Goold) woe to it, when its first principle is invaded, and its corner stone subverted. I make every allowance for the adyocate; I know how much his duty to his client demands from him. He may stand excused for calling upon you, for this preposterous usurpation of the Court's authority,
but you could not stand justified, if you obeyed the call. If this were a civil action, if a ques tion of property depended between two parties, should the counsel call upon you to break away from the Court, and construe a limitation in a deed, or a devise in a will,---should you not laugh at them? What then is the difference? If you would not haye a right, in the one case, how can you in the other, or does a trial of this nature varrant your assumption of power, because, not the property of your fellow-citizens, but the peace of your country is at stake? If any man,-not an advocate,-gave you such advice, would you consider him as a friend ;--and when an advocate gives it,--though you may forgive him for his zeal,- will you act upon his counsel ? And yet, Gentlemen, if this be justifiable, where is the confusion tọ stop ?-Why have they not called upon the judges to decide upon the weight of the evidence, and the credit of the witnesses ? Why have they stopped half way, in the discharge of their duty; and when they threw the statute into your box, why did they not send up the issue to the Bench?
I own that I am warm upon the subject, and anxious to establish this distinction. No man, attached to the constitution of acquainted with the laws of his country, can be indifferent upon such a topic :- but I am more-- I am interested in it. My Right Hon. and Learned Friend, and
myself, -as the sworn advisers of the Crown iti matters of law, -have given our opinions upon the construction of this statute, when called upon to do so ;--and if we have been wrong, in that opinion, we are deeply responsible.-Of my own opinion, I think with unaffected humility; when it is supported by his, I feel an honest confidence, that it is not mistaken; but even that confidence, I feel, not without deference to those learned and respectable persons, who may have seen the matter, in another point of view. I expect from them the same charity, and the same fairness. They will not impute to us more, than error of judgment; and if we are mistaken, let us stand iebuked,—though not abashed, because no one will ascribe more than mistake to us. Let us stand rebuked, I say, but by whom? Who is to judge between us, and those, who differ from us?-Are we, and our characters, at the mercy of a Jury, usurping the interpretation of the law ?-Are we to be judged by the presumptuous nonsense of Newspaper criticism? Is our knowledge of the laws of our country to be appreciated by the ravings of Country Gentlemen, declaiming upon acts of Parliainent ?-God forbid !--We appeal, from such'arrogated and audacious tribunals, to you, my Lords, the sworn Judges of the Land.--You are to interpret this Act of Parliament, upon your oaths, and your high responsibilities. By you; let us be judged, we disclaim all other
authority--if you say, that we have been right, we have done our duty to our Sovereign, and our Country :- If we have erred, I repeat it again, we are deeply answerable.
To decide this question, and to have the lay ascertained, and the public mind quieted upon this important subject, have those prosecutions been instituted :--not for the purpose, as has been unjustifiably asserted, -of persecuting Doctor Sheridan, or of subjecting any honest man to punishment. Doctor Sheridan has been warmly panegyrized, and though I have not the honour of knowing him, I doubt not, that he deserves the eulogies, which, in a trial of this nature, bave been so unnecessarily heaped upon him. I will go further, and say, that I doubt not but that he conceives himself to have acted justifiably, and violated the laws of his Country, without any intention of doing so. I can well believe, that he, and other worthy men, have acted under those mistaken impressions, which the misrepresentations of the Convention Act have suggested to so many ;- but it is not the less true, that if he has violated that law, he must be convicted. No man can be so weak or malignant, as seriously to impute to Government the wish to inflict upon him those miserable sufferings, which have been anticipated, and deplored with so much misplaced pathos example, and not punishment, is our object. If