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“ Whosoever” (says the English law) “ stealeth “a man, and tortureth him, and killeth him, or “ selleth him into slavery for all the days of “ his life, shall surely—pay twenty pounds.”— I trust that this grievous incongruity will at length be done away.
EXTRACT FROM A SPEECH,
DEFENCE OF JOHN DRAKARD,
A SEDITIOUS LIBEL,
THE LINCOLNSHIRE ASSIZES,
MARCH 13th, 1811.
I INTREAT you to reflect on the publication which is charged in the indictment with being libellous; and which has been commented upon by the Gentleman opposite me ;* and I beg you to recal to mind the comments he has made upon it. He has told you it has a tendency, and must have been published with an intention, to excite mutiny and disaffection in our army, by drawing a contrast, unfavourable to our service, when compared with the French ; and that it will induce the soldiers to join the standard of France, and to rebel against their officers; and, lastly, that it will prevent persons from entering into the service. Can Sir Robert Wilson, Gentlemen, can General Stewart,
• Mr. N. G. Clarke, Counsel for the prosecution.
or can the gallant veteran officer, whose very expressions the writer has used by any stretch of fancy, be conceived to have been actuated by such intentions ? Were they such madmen, as to have desired to alienate their men from their officers, and to disincline others from entering into the army of which they were commanders, and to which they were the firmest friends; to disincline men towards the defence of their own country, and lead them to wish for a foreign and a French yoke? Can you stretch your fancy to the thought of imputing to them such motives as these? You see the opinions they have given to the world. With what arguments, and with what glowing— I will even say violent-language they have expressed themselves. And shall it be said that this Defendant, who uses language not so strong, has published a work which has that fatal tendency, or that he was actuated by so infernal an intention? An intention which in these officers would argue downright madness but an intention which, in the author of this publication, would show him fit only for the society of demons ! Unless you are convinced, not only that what is innocent at Westminster is libellous here—but that what is commendable in these officers is diabolical in the Defendantyou cannot sentence him to a dungeon for doing
that which has obtained the favour of the Sovereign, and the gratitude of the country for those distinguished men.
I have heard so much about invidious topics, about dangerous subjects of discussion; I have seen so much twisting of expression to give them a tendency to produce disaffection, and I know not what besides, in the people of this country--that I am utterly at a loss to conceive any one subject—whether it be relative to military discipline, or to civil polity—that is not liable to the same objection. I will put my defence on this ground. If any one of those subjects which are commonly discussed in this country, and particularly of those relative to the army, can be handled in a way to prevent expressions from being twisted by ingenuity, or conceived by some to have a tendency to produce discontent—if any mode of treating such subjects can be pointed out to me, in which we shall be safe, allowing the argument of my learned friend to be just, I will give up this case, and confess that the intention of the Defendant was that which is imputed to him. Is there, to take an obvious instance, a subject more common-place than that of the miserable defect which now exists in the Commissariat of our army? I only select
this, because it comes first to my thoughts. Has it not always happened that in the unfortunate necessity of a retreat, all mouths have resounded with the ill conduct of the Commissariat? Has it not been said, in the hearing of the army and of the country, that the distresses of our troops on a retreat were increased by their want of food, occasioned by the inadequacy of our Commissariat? But we have not only been in the habit of blaming particular instances of neglect-we have also taken upon ourselves to blame the system itself. Nay, we have gone further, we have placed our Commissariat in comparison with that of France, and we have openly and loudly given the preference to the enemy. And why may not the Defendant do the same with reference to another point of military discipline? Can you fancy a subject more dangerous, or which is more likely to occasion rebellion, than that of provision, if you tell the soldier that, through the neglect of his Government, he runs the risk of being starved, while in the same breath you
add that Buonaparte's troops are well supplied, through the attention which he pays to this most important branch of a General's duty ? Yet, Gentlemen, no one has ever been censured-nor has it been said that it was his intention to excite confusion-because he has condemned that