Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

that inquisition after death, that was to find the forfeiture, not because the party died felo de se, but because he did not? Not because he stood out in rebellion against hiş creator, but because he followed the best and only lights that his frail and exhausted nature afforded him, and in what concerned him more than all the universe, made choice of that road which his conscience and inward feelings pointed out as the path of his salvation. : In an hour like that does any man commit fraud? If he prays to his God to direct him, and throws himself upon his mercy, and submits devoutly to his judgment, how yirulent, how audacious is it in man to dare to judge and to condemn him.

Mr. Recorder, here asked the counsel, how that caso of Lord Dunboyne was ultimately decided.

The Counsel. I will conceal nothing of it from the court. I wish the case to be understood, and fully weighed, for the reason and honesty of our case, will outweigh it, though twenty judges had decided it. From what

appears in M‘Nally's treatise, and what I gather from other sources, it ended at the rolls, with overruling the demurrer. But afterwards on an ejectment under the will brought by the heir at law, and tried before lord Kilwarden, in the month of August following, the same witness was called. Some subtle questions were put to him, to discover in what faith the testator died. He answered, like the reverend gentleman here, with modes. ty and discretion, that whatever knowledge he had, was imparted in religious confidence, and that he could not finish a lifo of seventy years by au act of sacerdotal im

piety. He was committed upon this for a contempt of court, and sentenced to a weeks imprisonment in the common jail of Triin. The jury found specially upon other evidence, that Lord Dunboyne had died a catholic. The judge then observed, as the party had not suffered from the want of his testimony, and the law had been vindicated, he did not consider the clergy man an object for punishment, and immediately ordered his discharge. Let us charitably suppose that this judge felt the cruelty of the proceeding, and wished in some degree to wash his hands of it.

I have been told, and sometimes believed, that it was. not without a heavy heart, that as Attorney General, he often moved for judgements upon men, whom he knew to be at least, as virtuous as himself, and as a privy counsellor, signed proclamations, at which humanity shudders. I was banished before his appointment to the bench, and long before his death. If he had those feelings of compunction, I could pity him, though he had persecuted me, and at no time could the world have bribed me to change places with him. He was not of the worst that governed in those times, and many regretted that the popular vengeance that lighted on his head, had not rather fallen on some others.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Sampson was again asked by the court, touching the event of the cause, and also whether the master of the rolls, was the same person who was oncé baron of the exchequer.

He was the same person, the title of baron being mere title of office, ceased with that office, he afterwards

abtained the descendible title of baronet, and has since been known by that. As to the result of the cause, if I am not deceived, the will was finally established. But be that as it will, and let the personal merit of those judges be what it may, it affects not my argument. The system under which they acted; the barbarous code with which they were familiar, was enough to taint their judgement. No judge, no legislator, historian, poet or philosopher, but what has been tinctured, with the follies or superstitions of his age. Of this, one memorable instance may suffice. Sir Matthew Hale was virtuous, wise, and learned; the advocate of toleration, the enemy of cruelty. The revolutionary storms that shook the throne of monarchs, could not move him. Wealth could not corrupt, nor power intimidate him. When we find his great and philosophic mind, vilely enthralled in the grossest superstition of his time; treating of witchcraft, in the first and second degree, laying down quaint and specious rules, for the detection and conviction of those victims of barbarous folly, straining the plain rules of evidence, to meet these imaginary crimes, and because the practices of witches with the devil, and of conjurors with evil spirits, were secret and dangerous, holding that therefore, witches might be convicted without full proof. After this, may we not well suspect those Irish judges to have imbibed the poison of their cruel code, and to have eaten of the insane root that taketh the reason prisoner. And as a further lesson of circumspection, let us not forget, that after that ever memorable frenzy, which in a neighbouring state, hurled to destruction, so many innocent victims, when the actors in those bloody tragedies returned to their senses, over

whelmed with shame and with confusion, their apology was, that they had been deluded by the writings of Glanvill, Hale and Baxter." What I now relate is history, that strange as it may seem, cannot be disputed, so dangerous it is to give the reigns to cruel prejudices. At that time yo eloquence could dissuade; no advocate had courage to oppose the torrent. The trembling wretch overawed by the frown of the magistrate, the fear of the law, and the dread of death, was no sooner denounced than he confessed; and many accusing themselves were received into favor as penitent witches or wizards, and used to convict others less guilty, but not so politic. At that epoch the peaceful society of Friends was thought little less dangerous, and thus did those who fled from persecution in England, become through ignorance most intolerant persecutors in America. Such is the nature of that fiendlike spirit, which it requires but a moment to raise and centuries to lay. Thank heaven it is laid in this land, and I trust forever. The best proof of which is, that we can discuss this question, in peace and charity without stirring one angry passion, or one malignant feeling. For there is no man on this side the Atlantic, that does not regard these errors of past times, as examples to be shunned, not imitated; nor should I revive their memory, but for that purpose. It seems indeed, as if providence had decreed this land, to be the grave of persecution, and the cradle of tolerance. The illustrious Penn, was imprisoned for his dangerous opinions in England; he came to America, and being invested with legislative authority, found. ed a code upon the principles of pure and unequivocating toleration. The storms of the revolution scattered back

.

the precious seeds, and the British empire itself, after à long lapse of years, received practical lessons of that wisdom, it had banished from its shores. Even in Ire , land the cheering ray pierced the gloomy night of oppression : the sympathetic charm awaked the sleeping genius of a reanimated people, and raised up those champions of civil and religious rights, within and without the walls of parliament, whose splendid eloquence,

showed the native measure of many a thousand souls - that bondage had degraded. How far that glorious spirit

has since sunk into subjection; how far the unceasing work, ings of corruption and untoward events lave again subdued the generous feelings of that season, I cannot, dare not say; but with respect to catholic persecution, it received its death blow from the American revolution, and the constitution of the free states that compose this great commonwealth. It might be amusing and instructive too, to trace the progress of catholic emancipation, did our time admit of it. To see in the first trembling supplications of the abject petitioner for rights, that slaves would scorn to ask, the horrible relation of the oppressor and the oppressed. To be allowed to swear allegiance and fidelity, was granted with reluctance, as a too generous boon. To disclaim upon oath, charges of which no man was guilty, was an indulgence almost too great to ask for. That the son should no longer by the mere act of conforming to another church, be free to violate the order of nature and disinherit his own father, was a mighty concession. To hold a lease for years, or take by devise- he was a bold projector that dared to ask for that. To be a school-master, or a school-master's as. sistant, was too much to expect. To commit matri.

« PredošláPokračovať »