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M R. ERSKI NE.
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY,
I LISTENED with the greatest attention (and in honour of my learned friend I must say with the greatest approbation) to much of his address to you in the opening of this cause ;- it was candid and manly, and contained many truths which I have no interest to deny ; one in particular which involves in it indeed the very principle of the defence,--the value of that happy constitution of government which has so long existed in this island. I hope that none of us will ever forget the gratitude which we owe to the Divine Providence, and, under its blessing, to the wisdom of our forefathers, for the happy establishment of law and justice under which we live; and under which, thank God, my Clients are this day to be judged: great indeed will be the condemnation of any man who does not feel and act as he ought to do upon this subject ; for surely if there be one privilege greater than another which the benevolent Author of our being has been pleased to dispense to his creatures since the existence of the earth which we inhabit, it is to have cast our lots in this age and country :-for myself, I would in spirit prostrate myself daily and hourly before
Heaven to acknowledge it, and instead of coming from the house of Mr. Walker, and accompanying him at Preston (the only truths which the witness has uttered since he came into Court), if I believed him capable of committing the crimes he is charged with, I would rather have gone into my grave than have been found as a friend under his roof.
Gentlemen, the crime imputed to the Defendant is a serious one indeed :-Mr. Law has told you, and told you truly, that this Indictment has not at all for its object to condemn or to question the particular opinions which Mr. Walker and the other Defend-, ants inay entertain concerning the principles of this government, or the reforms which the wisest governments may from time to time require: he is indeed a man of too enlarged a mind to think for a moment that his country can be served by interrupting the current of liberal opinion, or overawing the legal freedom of English sentiment by the terrors of criminal prosecution: he openly disavows such a system, and has, I think, even more than hinted to us that there may
be seasons when an attention to reform may be salutary, and that every individual under our happy establishment has a right upon this important subject to think for himself.
The Defendants therefore are not arraigned before you, nor even censured in observation, for having associated at Manchester to promote what they felt to be the cause of religious and civil liberty ;-nor are they arraigned or censured for seeking to collect the
sentiments of their neighbours and the public concerning the necessity of a reform in the constitution of Parliament; these sentiments and objects are wholly out of the question : but they are charged with having unlawfully confederated and conspired to destroy and overthrow the government of the kingdom by OPEN FORCE AND REBELLION, and that to effect this wicked purpose they exercised the King's subjects with arms, perverting that which is our birthright, for the protection of our lives and property, to the malignant purpose of supporting the enemies of this kingdom in case of an invasion: in order, as my friend has truly said (for I admit the consequence if the fact be established), in order to make our country that scene of confusion and desolation which fills every man's heart with dismay and horror, when he only reads or thinks of what is transacting at a distance upon the bloody theatre of the war that is now desolating the world. This, and nothing different or less than this, is the charge which is made upon the Defendants, at the head of whom stands before you a merchant of honour, property, character, and respect ;-who has long enjoyed the countenance and friendship of many of the worthiest and most illustrious persons in the kingdom, and whose principles and conduct have more than onee been publicly and gratefully acknowledged by the community of which he is a mem. ber, as the friend of their commerce and liberties,
and the protector of the most essential privileges which Englishmen can enjoy under the laws. .
Gentlemen, such a prosecution against such a person ought to have had a strong foundation : putting private justice and all respect of personis. wholly out of the question, it should not, but upon the most clear conviction and the most urgent necessity, have been instituted at all ;-we are at this moment in a most awful and fearful crisis of affairs ;--we are told authentically by the Sovereign from the throne, that our enemies in France are meditating an invasion, and the kingdom from one end to another is in motion to repel it. In such a state of things, and when the public transactions of government and justice in the two countries pass and repass from one another as if upon the wings of the wind, is.it politic to prepare this solemn array of justice upon such a dangerous subject, without a reasonable foundation, or rather without an urgent call? At a time when it is our common interest that France should believe us to be, what we are and ever have been, one heart and soul to protect our country and our constitution-is it wise or prudent, putting private justice wholly out of the question, that it should appear to the councils of France,-apt enough to exaggerate advantages,--that the Judge representing the Government in the northern district of this kingdom should be sitting here in judgment in the presence of all the gentlemen whose property lies in this great county, to trace and to punish the existence of a rebellious conspiracy to support an invasion from France?-a conspiracy not existing in a single district alone, but maintaining itself by criminal concert and correspondence in every district, town, and city in the kingdom ;—projecting nothing less than the atter destruction and subversion of the Government.--Good God! can it be for the interest of Government that such an account of the state of this country should go forth? Unfortunately, the rumour and effect of this day's business will spread where the evidence may not travel with it, to serve as an antidote to the mischief; for certainly the scene which we have this day witnessed can never be imagined in France or in Europe.--where the spirit of our law is known and understood ;--it never will be credited that all this serious process has no foundation either in fact or probability, and that it stands upon the single evidence of a common soldier, or rather a common vagabond, discharged as unfit to be a soldier ;-of a wretch, lost to all reverence for God and religion, who avows, that he has none for either, and who is incapable of observing even common decency as a witness in the Court :--this will never be believed ; and the country, whose best strength at home and abroad is the soundness of all its members, will suffer from the very credit which Government will receive for the justice of this proceeding,