« AnteriorContinuar »
tion of an arrest and the gaze of the multitude, upon a belief founded upon facts not stated? When Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel to interpret his dream, Daniel said unto him, “Tell me first thy dream, and I will truly interpret it.' So we say to the Spanish consul, Tell us the circumstances of your belief, and we will interpret it for you.
“ As to this point of the sufficiency of affidavits to justify warrants, the law is clearly laid down in these words: 'Magistrates must not grant any warrant groundlessly or maliciously, without such probable cause as might induce some discreet and impartial person to believe, not that an offence had been committed only, but that the party charged is guilty of the offence. If a man swears to nothing, to no fact or circumstance, his oath, like that of lovers, passes away in the idle wind and is heard of no more. The Spanish consul's belief may be a matter of little importance to the rest of the world. IIe may swear to his belief in the New Jerusalem, but does that prove the existence of a New Jerusalem ? If a man's belief is to prove a fact, we shall then have a great variety of curious facts afloat in the world. This would be a dangerous doctrine in these days of credulity, when strange rumors are abroad in the world and the wildest fictions obtain believers. Our brethren at the North believe that we are cut-throats and barbarians, but that does not prove that we are those disreputable characters, so we return the compliment by believing that they are the bigoted and fanatical followers of a true God. But these beliefs prove nothing. And why should there be no facts and circumstances set forth in this case ? Was this alleged expedition so private and secret an affair that no proof of it can be found? When our Gulf is dotted with ships of our squadron, and the public ear is on the qui vive to catch the reverberations of cannon along our shores, when the telegraphic wires are occupied in the transmission of Executive orders relative to this Cuban affair, and a great excitement pervades the whole country, is it possible that no fact or circumstance can be found to put into an affidavit against the supposed leader of the cause of all this disturbance ?
" [Mr. Prentiss then read an authority from Burr's trial, and proceeded to argue at length that the fitting out of an expedition being a physical fact, admitted of the most positive averments and direct evidence.]
“In conclusion, Mr. Prentiss invoked for General Lopez, a stranger and sojourner in our country, the same justice, the same rigid rules which are extended to other persons charged with offences of the courts, and if officers of the law deviated a hair's breadth from the uniform practice and principles of law, they would find no justification in the public sentiment of the country. A thousand Argus eyes are watching these proceedings with intense interest. Let the rules of the law, therefore, which guard the liberty of men, be strictly observed, so that the people may believe that justice has been faithfully done to the foreigner who places himself under our jurisdiction. Do not stretch the law, do not leap over the barriers imposed by legal wisdom against judicial tyranny, in order to clutch this party and offer him up as a sacrifice to this new-born virtue of neutrality. Prepare your affidavit in proper form, let it allege the facts and circumstances of the offence, so that we may know what we have to answer for. When parties profess to be so intimate with the affair, they surely can hunt up some materials for such an affidavit as the law requires. Until this is done I am satisfied this court cannot legally entertain this charge.
"Mr. Prentiss here took his seat, much exhausted by his effort, and after a while retired from the court-room."
Such was the last effort of Prentiss's master-mind. The theme was worthy of the powers of the advocate. He had, the year before, touched at Cuba, and been enchanted by its beauty, and now was the champion of its liberty, in striving to rescue Lopez, its would-be liberator. The forum before which he stood was the tribunal of the nation, that nation itself the child of revolution. In the assembly all classes were represented, and here, as often before, the nation was his auditor. Buoyed up by the exalted theme and its clustering associations, his mind rose superior to his frail body and carried it unfalteringly to the end. He spoke like one inspired, and it was a fitting close to his career as an rator. As the poet chants of the dying swan:
“Death darkens his eye and unplumes his wings,
Yet his sweetest song is the last he sings."
The advocate, however, was not successful. Lopez was bound over to appear at the Circuit Court. He, with sixteen, embracing, among others, J. S. Sigur, General Donation Augustin, C. P. Smith, Jr., John Henderson, John A. Quitman, and J. Sullivan, was indicted by the grand jury for violation of the neutrality laws. After three mistrials the prosecution was abandoned and the cases dismissed.
The tragic fate of Lopez is well known. In 1852 he organized a force, landed at Bahia Hondo, and, like Tarik when he landed at Gibraltar, sent back the boats, but was not met with an uprising of the people. He fought, was overwhelmed by numbers, and cut to pieces. Some of his band were captured, and, amidst the execrations of the populace, were shot. One was ordered to kneel, but replied he never knelt to any but his God. Another was ordered to turn his back, but replied that he would face the foe. Lopez himself was chased from place to place, and was at last betrayed, captured, and garroted on the 12th of September, 1852. His last words were “ Adios, carra Cuba!”
From this digression let us return to the narrative of the closing scene of the trial before Judge McCaleb. Scarcely had Prentiss finished ere he fainted. After he had sufficiently recovered he was borne to the St. Charles Hotel, and there again fainted. That night he obtained no sleep. On Sunday he was attacked with a violent recurrence of his malady, and almost passed into the collapse state of cholera. On Monday, after having crawled down-stairs, he determined to go to his office, but again fainted, and was carried back to his room, where he remained all that day. On that night he slept well, but on Tuesday morning was exceedingly weak, the paroxysms of fainting, in the mean time, growing more severe. During the intervals he still continued cheerful, but on this day at last consented to abandon business and hasten to “Longwood" to rejoin his family. He himself began to fear that he would never again see them. His anxiety to get off now became intense: he counted the moments as they passed. About five o'clock on Tuesday afternoon he was borne to the steamer by his friends, who followed in such a way as not to excite alarm. He was lifted from the mattress upon which he had been conveyed to the boat and carried aboard the same seated in a chair. As they were bearing him aloft his eye caught that of his friend, Hon. Garrett Duncan. Instantly his face lit up with a smile, and with a graceful inclination of the head he asked, “Any motions to make, gentlemen ?"
Attended by his faithful friends, Colonel Peter B. Starke, Mr. Hammett, and Dr. Cross, he reached Natchez on the 19th of June. By way of precaution, to prepare Mr. Prentiss's family for his appearance, and thereby save them from the shock that it otherwise would have occasioned them, General Starke rode in advance to “Longwood” and announced his coming; he had scarcely gotten through with the sentence, “Mr. Prentiss will be here soon; he has been very ill,” ere the carriage drove up. Mr. Prentiss was lifted out and removed to his room, where the birds, the flowers, and the pure air seemed
to revive him. Roses were put by his bedside, and he expatiated upon their beauty and his delight. But it was too late. Bingaman tersely remarked, “ Nothing is left of him but his grand two-story head.” Day by day the fatal disease progressed. Sometimes he became delirious, accompanied by painful visions; he talked about his suits, and raising money for his children, but pleasant visions also hovered around him. Says the faithful watcher by his side, writing to his kindred,
“ IIe has called for you all by name again and again during his illness, particularly for his mother. 'Dear mother, do you love me?' and 'Dear, dear mother,' has been constantly on his lips. Her early instructions and
prayers were, no doubt, in his mind. He has also repeatedly called upon God. One day, when he was very low and much distressed at the idea of death, I urged him to go to the Saviour, and repeated to him many sentences from the Bible, but he said God would never forgive him, that I did not know how wicked he had been. I told him only to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and though his sins were as scarlet they should be white as snow.' This seemed to quiet his fear. I begged him to pray, and asked him if he didn't remember how his mother used to teach him. He said, 'Oh, yes,' and desired me to pray with him, and I then repeated to him the Lord's Prayer. Several times he has said • Amen!' • Amen! as if he were praying. Yesterday I heard him saying as if to himself, ' O God the Son,' recalling, I suppose, the petition in the Litany. We are all now watehing. hoping, praying, and trembling for him to awake. God grant that all may be right with him !"
Thus, at the closing hours, as his devoted wife sat beside him, memory hovered around his couch and whispered to him of the past. The images of his mother, sisters, and brothers were there. He remembered the prayer his mother taught his infant lips to lisp,—a prayer proof itself of its divine origin, for never was there in so small a compass compressed so much matter for comfort and consolation ; in its brief words are embraced filial reverence, holy aspirations, trust in Providence, mutual forgiveness, guidance in temptation, deliverance from evil, and an acknowledgment of the omnipotence of God. There came, also, to his memory portions of the sublime Litany; "O God the Son," was all that was heard by mortal ears, but the rest may have been caught up by the hovering angel and wafted above,
-“ Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us miserable sinners !"
On the last day of June, after giving his wife a kiss and a smile, he begged her to sit at the foot of his bed that he might see her the moment he awoke. “Mary, shall we meet in heaven?" were his last words. He sank into a quiet slumber from which he was destined never to wake. At seven o'clock on the evening of the 1st of July “his spirit returned to the Govi who gave it." “David Williams, Colonel Bingaman, General Houston, Mr. Evans, Mr. Shields, Drs. Smith and Metcalfe, and the Seargent family were with him to the last.”
On the 20 of July the funeral cortege started from “Longwood,” led by the Rt. Rev. Wm. M. Green, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Mississippi, who performed the last sad office of the burial of the dead. In that procession, besides a number of other friends, were the members of the Mississippi bar, then in attendance upon the Chancery Court at Natchez, John T. McMurran, R. M. Gaines, H. S. Eustis, J. S. B. Thatcher, Chancellor J. M. Smiley, George H. Gordon (of Woodville), John B. Coleman (of Port Gibson), and George S. Yerger (of Jackson), all of whom have passed away. Proceeding to the main road, the procession turned southward to the family graveyard of the Seargent family at “Gloucester.” In that classic spot had been laid the remains of the first governor of the Territory of Mississippi, and also the members of his family. Within its hallowed precincts were now laid, with the solemn requiem "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” all that was mortal of our beloved friend and tutor.
How many eyes were dimmed with tears at the premature termination of his brilliant career can never be told. We can only judge of the wide-spread sorrow that his death caused by the posthumous honors paid to his memory. Immediately upon hearing the sad news, the members of the bars of Natchez, New Orleans, Jackson, and Vicksburg met and passed heartfelt resolutions of condolence. Judge Alexander Walker and Colonel Claiborne, both politically opposed to him, bowed their heads and draped his memory with cypress. Judge Bullard passed the most exquisitely pathetic eulogium ever spoken, and Judge McCaleb echoed its tender strains. These mourning wreaths are all garnered in the "Memoirs" by his brother, and