Page images
PDF
EPUB

part of our military system which relates to providing the soldiers with food.

In truth, we must submit to these discussions, if we would have any discussion at all. Strong expressions may, indeed, be pointed out here and there in a publication on such topics, and one may be more strong than another. When he is heated, a man will express himself strongly. And am I to be told, that, in discussing a subject which interests all men, no man is to express himself with force? Is it the inflammatory tendency of this publication, or is it, in one word, the eloquence with which the writer has treated his discussion, that has excited the present prosecution ? If he had treated his subject dully, coldly, stupidly, he might have gone on to the end of time; he would never have heard a breath of censure, seen a line of information, or produced an atom of effect. If warmth is not to be pardoned in discussing such topics, to what are the feelings of men to be confined ?

I shall, perhaps, hear-confine yourself to such subjects as do not affect the feelings—to matters that are alike indifferent to all men-go to arithmetic-take abstract points of law“ tear passion to tatters” upon questions in addition and subtraction-be as warm as you please on special pleading—there is a time sufficient for the workings of the heart—but beware of what interests all mankind, more especially your own countrymen ; touch not the fate and fortune of the British Army. Beware of those subjects which concern the men who advance but to cover themselves with victory, and who retire but to gain yet greater fame by their patient endurance; men who then return to their homes, covered with laurels, to receive the punishment of the lash, which you

inflict on the meanest and most unnatural of malefactors ! Let us hear nothing of the “ charnel houses” of the West Indies, as Sir Robert Wilson calls them, that yawn to receive the conquerors of Corunna! Beware of touching on these points; beware of every thing that would animate every heart; that would make the very stones re-echo your sound, and awaken stocks to listen to you. You must not treat such subjects at all, or else you must do it coolly, allowing yourselves to glow by some scale, of which my learned friend is no doubt in possession ; you must keep to a line, which is so fine, that no eye but his can perceive it.

This may

not be this must not be! While we continue to live in England it may not be

while we remain unsubdued by that egregious tyrant, who persecutes all freedom with a rancour, which only oppressors can know-that tyrant, against whom the distinguished officers, whose works I have quoted, have waged a noble and an efficient resistance

and against whom this Defendant, in his humbler sphere, has been zealous in his opposition :—that tyrant, whose last and most highly prized victory is, that which he has gained over the liberty of discussion. Yet, Gentlemen, while that tyrant enslaves his own subjects, and turns them loose to enslave others, no man under his sway dare attempt to do more than calmly and temperately to discuss his measures. Writers in his dominions must guage their productions, according to the standard 'established by my learned friend—they must measure their argument according to his rule—and regulate the warmth of their language to a certain defined temperature. When they treat of the tyrant's ambitious and oppressive policy–when they treat of the rigours of his military conscription, they must keep to the line which has been this day marked out in this Court. Should they go beyond that line-should they engage in their subject with an honest zeal, and treat it with a force likely to gain conviction—that is to say, should they treat it after the manner of the

writer of this composition which is now before you—they may lay their account with being dragged forth to be shot without a trial, like the unhappy bookseller of Nuremberg, or with being led in mockery to a Court; and, after the forms of a judical investigation are gone through, consigned by the decision of the Judges to years of imprisonment.

And yet, Gentlemen, there is some excuse for Buonaparte, when he acts in this manner. His government, as he well knows, is bottomed in injustice and cruelty. If you search and lay bare its foundation, you must necessarily shake it to its centre—its safety consists in silence and obscurity! Above all, is it essential to its power, that the cruelty of his military system should not be attacked, for on it does he rest his greatness? The writer, therefore, who should treat, in a nervous style, of the rigour of his conscription, could expect nothing but severe punishment.

But happily, Gentlemen, things in this country are a little different. Our constitution is bottomed in law and in justice, and in the great and deep foundation of universal liberty! It

may, therefore, claim inquiry. Our establishments thrive in open day—they even thrive,

surrounded and assailed by the clamour of faction. Our rulers may continue to discharge their several duties, and to regulate the affairs of the State, while their ears are dinned with tumult. They have nothing to fear from the inquiries of men. Let the public discuss, so much the better. Even uproar, Gentlemen, is wholesome in England, while a whisper is fatal in France !

But you must take it with you, in deciding on the merits of this publication, that it is not upon our military system that the Defendant has passed his reflections—it is not our military system that he condemns. His exertions are directed to remove a single flaw which exists on the surface of that system-a speck of rottenness which mars its beauty, and is destructive of its strength. Our military system he admires in common with us all; he animadverts upon a taint and not upon its essence-upon a blot which disfigures it, and not upon a part of its structure. He wishes you to remove an excrescence, which may be pulled away without loosening the foundation, and the rest will appear the fairer, and remain so much sounder and safe.

You are now, Gentlemen, to say, by your

« PreviousContinue »