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os homini sublime dedicælumque tueri ; in which even I can look up with calm security to the court, and down with the most profound contempt upon the reptile I mean to tread upon! I say reptile; because when the proudest man in society becomes so the dupe of his childish malice, as to wish to inflict on the object of his vengeance, the poison of his sting, to do a reptile's work, he must shrink into a reptile’s dimension ; and so shrunk, the only way to assail him is to tread upon him. Bul to the subject : this writ of habeas corpus, has had a return. That return states, that Lord Ellenborough, chief justice of England, issued a warrant reciting the foundation of this dismal transaction: that one of the clerks of the crown-office had certified to him that an indictment had been found at Westminster, charging the Hon. Robert Johnson, late of Westminster, one of the justices of his majesty's court of common pleas in Ireland, with the publication of certain slanderous libels against the government of that country; against the person of his excellency Lord Hardwicke, lord lieutenant of that country ; against the person of lord Redesdale, the chancellor of Ireland; and against the person of Mr. Justice Osborne, one of the justices of the court of King's Bench in Ireland. One of the clerks of the crown-office, it seems, certified all this to his lordship. How many of those there are, or who they are, or which of them so certified, we cannot presume to guess, because the learned and noble lord is silent as to those circumstances. We are only informed that one of them made that important communication to his lordship. It puts me in mind of the information given to one of Fielding's justices.
“Did not,” says his worship’s wife, “the man with che wallet make his fidavy that you was a vagram ?" I suppose it was some such petty bag officer who gave Lord Ellenborough to understand that Mr. Justice Johnson was indicted. And being thus given to understand and be informed, he issued his warrant to a gentleman, no doubt of great respectability, a Mr. Williams, his tipstaff, to take the body of Mr. Justice Johnson and
bring him before a magistrate, for the purpose of giving bail to appear within the first eight days of this term, so that there might be a trial within the sittings after; and if, by the blessing of God, he should be convicted, then to appear on the return of the postea, to be dealt with according to law.
Perhaps it may be a question for you to decide, whether that warrant, such as it may be, is not now absolutely spent; and, if not, how a man can contrive to be hereafter in England on a day that is past ? And high as the opinion may be in England of frish understanding, it will be something beyond even Irish exactness, to bind him to appear in England not a fortnight hence, but a fortnight ago. I wish, my lords, we had the art of giving time this retrograde motion. If possessed of the secret, we might possibly be disposed to improve it from fortnights into years.
There is something not incurious in the juxtaposition of signatures. The warrant is signed by the chief justice of all England. In music, the ear is reconciled to strong transitions of key by a preparatory resolution of the intervening discords ; but here, alas! there is nothing to break the fall: the august title of Ellenborough is followed by the unadorned name of brother Bell, the sponsor of his lordship’s warrant. Let me not, however, be suffered to-deem lightly of the compeer
of the noble and learned lord. Mr. Justice Bell ought to be a lawyer; I remember him myself long a crier, and I knew his credit with the state; he has had a nolle prosequi. I see not therefore why it may not fairly be said “fortunati ambo !" It appears by this return, that Mr. Justice Bell endorses this bill of lading to another consignee, Mr. Medlicot, a most respectable gentleman; he describes himself upon the warrant, and he gives a delightful specimen of the administration of justice, and the calendar of saints in office: he describes himself a justice and a peace officer—that is, a magistrate, and a catchpole : so that he may receive informations as a justice; if he can write, he may draw them as a clerk; if not, he can execute the warrant as bailiff;
and, if it be a capital offence, you may see the culprit, the justice, the clerk, the bailiff, and the hangman, together in the same cart; and, though he may not write, he may
“ride and tie!" What a pity that their journey should not be further continued together! That, as they had been "lovely in their lives, so in their deaths they might not be divided !" I find, my lords, I have undesignedly raised a laugh; never did I less feel merriment.-Let not me be condemned-let not the laugh be mistaken.—Never was Mr. Hume more just than when he says, that, “ in many things the extremes are nearer to one another than the means.". Few are those events that are produced by vice and folly, that fire the heart with indignation, that do not also shake the sides with laughter. So when the two famous moralists of old beheld the sad spectacle of life, the one burst into laughter, and the other melted into tears; they were each of them right, and equally right.
Si credas utrique
But these laughs are the bitter ireful laughs of honest indignation, or they are the laughs of hectic melancholy and despair.
It is stated to you, my lords, that these two justices, if justices they are to be called, went to the house of the defendant. I am speaking to judges, but I disdain the paltry insult it would be to them, were I to appeal to any wretched sympathy of situation. I feel I am above it. I know the bench is above it. But I know, too, that there are ranks, and degrees, and decorums to be observed ; and if I had a harsh communication to make to a venerable judge, and a similar one to his crier, 1 should certainly address them in a very different language indeed. A judge of the land, a man not young, of infirm health, has the sanctuary of his habitation broken open by these two persons, who set out with him for the coast, to drag him from his country, to hurry him to a strange land by the “most direct
way !" till the king's writ stopt the malefactors, and left the subject of the king a waif dropt in the pursuit.
Is it for nothing, my lords, I say this? Is it without intention I state the facts in this way? It is with every intention. It is the duty of the public advocate not so to put forward the object of public attention, as that the skeleton only shall appear, without flesh, or feature, or complexion. I mean every thing that ought to be meant in a court of justice. I mean not only that this execrable attempt shall be intelligible to the court as a matter of law, but shall be understood by the world as an act of state. If advocates had always the honesty and the courage, upon occasions like this, to despise all personal considerations, and to think of no consequence but what may result to the public from the faithful discharge of their sacred trust, these phrenetic projects of power, these atrocious aggressions on the liberty and happiness of men, would not be so often attempted; for, though a certain class of delinquents may be screened from punishment, they cannot be protected from hatred and derision. The great tribunal of reputation will pass its inexorable sentence upon their crimes, their follies, or their incompetency; they will sink themselves under the consciousness of their situation ; they will feel the operation of an acid so neutralizing the malignity of their natures, as to make them at least harmless, if it cannot make them honest. Nor is there any thing of risk in the conduct I recommend. If the fire be hot, or the window cold, turn not your back to either; turn your face. So, if you are obliged to arraign the acts of those in high station, approach them not with malice, mor favor, nor fear. Remember, that it is the condition of guilt to tremble, and of honesty to be bold; remember that your false fear can only give them false courage :that while you nobly avow the cause of truth, you will find her shield an impenetrable protection; and that no attack can be either hazardous or inefficient, if it be just and resolute.--If Nathan had not fortified himself in the boldness and directness of
his charge, he might have been hanged for the malice of his parable.
It is, my lords, in this temper of mind, befitting every advocate who is worthy of the name, deeply and modestly sensible of his duty, and proud of his privilege, equally exalted above the meanness of temporizing or of offending, most averse from the unnecessary infliction of pain upon any man or men whatsoever, that I now address you on a question, the most vitally connected with the liberty and well being of every man within the limits of the British empire ; which, if decided one way,
may be a freeman; which, if decided the other, he must be a slave, It is not the Irish nation only that is involved in this question. Every member of the three realms is equally embarked ; and would to God all England could listen to what passes here this day! they would regard us with more sympathy and respect, when the proudest Britain saw that his liberty was defended in what he would call a provincial court, and by a provincial advocate. The abstract and general question for your consideration is this: my lord Ellenborough has signed with his own hand a warrant, which has been endorsed by Mr. Bell, an Irish justice, for seizing the person of Mr. Justice Johnson in Ireland, for conveying his person by the most direct way, in such manner as these bailiffs may choose, across the sea, and afterwards to the city of Westminster, to take his trial for an alleged libel against the persons entrusted with the government of Ireland; and to take that trial in a country where the supposed offender did not live at the time of the supposed offence, nor since a period of at least eighteen months previous thereto, has ever resided; where the subject of his accusation is perfectly unknown; where the conduct of his prosecutors, which has been the subject of the supposed libel, is equally unknown; where he has not the power of compelling the attendance of a single witness for his defence. Under that warrant he has been dragged from his family ; under that warrant he was on his way to the water's edge: