Page images

cannot desert me.” Hear, Gentlemen, hear, I beseech you, how this innocent confidence was returned. When her indignant father had resorted to Lord Forbes, the commander of the forces, and to the noble and learned head of this Court, both of whom received him with a sympathy that did them honour, Mr. Townsend sent a brother officer to inform her she must quit his residence and take lodgings. In vain she remonstrated, in vain she reminded him of her former purity, and of the promises that betrayed it. She was literally turned out at night-fall to find whatever refuge the God of the shelterless might provide for her. Deserted and disowned, how naturally did she turn to the once happy home, whose inmates she had disgraced, and whose protection she had forfeited ! how naturally did she think the once familiar and once welcome avenues looked frowning as she passed! how naturally did she linger like a reposeless spectre round the memorials of her living happiness! Her heart failed her; where a parent's smile had ever cheered her, she could not face the glance of shame, or sorrow, or disdain. She returned to seek her seducer's pity even till the morning. Good God! how can I disclose it !—the very guard had orders to refuse her access ; even by the rabble soldiery she was cast into the street, amid the night's dark horrors, the victim of her own credulity, the outcast of another's crime, to seal her guilty woes with suicide, or lead a living death amid the tainted sepulchres of a promiscuous prostitution! Far, far am I from sorry that it was so. Horrible beyond thought as is this aggravation, I only hear in it the voice of the Deity in thunder upon the crime. Yes, yes; it is the present God arming the vicious agent against the vice, and terrifying from its conception by the turpitude to which it may lead. But what aggravation does seduction need! Vice is its essence, lust its end, hypocrisy its instrument, and innocence its victim. Must I detail its miseries? Who depopulates the home of virtue, making the child an orphan and the parent childless ? Who rests its crutch from the tottering helplessness of piteous age? Who wrings its happiness from the heart of youth? Who shocks the vision of the public eye? Who infects your very thoroughfares with disease, disgust, obscenity, and profaneness ? Who pollutes the harmless scenes where modesty resorts for mirth, and toil for recreation, with sights that stain the pure and shock the sensitive? Are these the phrases of an interested ad


vocacy ? is there one amongst you but has witnessed their verification? Is there one amongst you so fortunate, or so secluded, as not to have wept over the wreck of health, and youth, and loveliness, and talent, the fatal trophies of the seducer's triumph -some form, perhaps, where every grace was squandered, and every beauty paused to waste its bloom, and every beam of mind and tone of melody poured their profusion on the public wonder; all that a parent's prayer could ask, or a lover's adoration fancy; in whom even pollution looked so lovely, that virtue would have made her more than human? Is there an epithet too vile for such a spoiler? Is there a punishment too severe for such depravity? I know not upon what complaisance this English seducer may calculate from a jury of this country: I know not, indeed, whether he may not think he does your wives and daughters some honour by their contamination. But I know well what reception he would experience from a jury of his own country. I know that in such general execration do they view this crime, they think no possible plea a palliation! no, not the mature age of the seduced; not her previously protracted absence from her parents ; not a levity approaching almost to absolute guilt; not an indiscretion in the mother, that bore every colour of connivance; and in this opinion they have been supported by all the venerable authorities with whom age, integrity, and learning have adorned the judgment-seat.

Gentlemen, I come armed with these authorities. In the case of Tullidge against Wade, my Lord, it appeared the person seduced was thirty years of age, and long before absent from her

, home; yet, on a motion to set aside the verdict for excessive damages, what was the language of Chief Justice Wilmot? “I regret,” said he, “ that they were not greater; though the plaintiff's loss did not amount to twenty shillings, the jury were right in giving ample damages, because such actions should be encouraged for example's sake.” Justice Clive wished they had given twice the sum, and in this opinion the whole bench concurred. There was a case where the girl was of mature age, and living apart from her parents ; here, the victim is almost a child, and was never for a moment separated from her home. Again, in the case of Bennet against Alcot,” on a similar motion, grounded on the apparently overwhelming fact, that the mother of the girl had actually sent the defendant into her daughter's bed

chamber, where the criminality occurred, Justice Buller declared, “ he thought the parent's indiscretion no excuse for the defendant's culpability;" and the verdict of 2001. damages was confirmed. There was a case of literal connivancc: here, will they have the hardihood to hint even its suspicion? You all must remember, Gentlemen, the case of our own countryman, Captain Gore, against whom, only the other day, an English jury gave a verdict of 1,5001. damages, though it was proved that the person alleged to have been seduced was herself the seducer, going even so far as to throw gravel up at the windows of the defendant; yet Lord Ellenborough refused to disturb the verdict Thus you may see I rest not on my own proofless and unsupported dictum. I rely upon grave decisions and venerable authorities, not only on the indignant denunciation of the moment, but on the deliberate concurrence of the enlightened and the dispassionate. I see my learned opponent smile. I tell him I would not care if the books were an absolute blank upon the subject. I would then make the human heart my authority! I would appeal to the bosom of every man who hears me, whether such a crime should grow unpunished into a precedent; whether innocence should be made the subject of a brutal speculation ; whether the sacred seal of filial obedience, upon which the Almighty Parent has affixed his eternal fiat, should be violated by a blasphemous and selfish libertinism !

Gentlemen, if the cases I have quoted, palliated as they were, have been humanely marked by ample damages, what should you give here where there is nothing to excuse—where there is every thing to aggravate! The seduction was deliberate, it was three months in progress, its victim was almost a child, it was committed under the most alluring promises, it was followed by a deed of the most dreadful cruelty ; but, above all, it was the act of a man commissioned by his own country, and paid by this, for the enforcement of the laws, and the preservation of society. No man more respects than I do the well-earned reputation of the


British army i

“ It is a school
Where every principle tending to honour

Is taught-if followed." But in the name of that distinguished army, I here solemnly appeal against an act, which would blight its greenest laurels, and lay its trophies prostrate in the dust. Let them war, but be it not on domestic happiness ; let them invade, but be their country's hearths inviolable ; let them achieve a triumph wherever their banners fly, but be it not over morals, innocence, and virtue. I know not by what palliation the defendant means to mitigate this enormity ;-will he plead her youth ? it should have been her protection.—Will he plead her levity? I deny the fact; but even were it true, what is it to him? what right has any man to speculate on the temperature of your wives and your daughters, that he may defile your bed, or desolate your habitation? Will he plead poverty ? I never knew a seducer or an adulterer that did not. He should have considered that before. But is poverty an excuse for crime? Our law says, he who has not a purse to pay for it, must suffer for it in his person. It is a most wise declaration ; and for my part, I never hear such a person plead poverty, that my first emotion is not a thanksgiving, that Providence has denied, at least, the instrumentality of wealth to the accomplishment of his purposes. Gentlemen, I see you agree with me. I waive the topic; and I again tell you, that if what I know will be his chief defence were true, it should avail him nothing. He had no right to speculate on this wretched creature's levity to ruin her, and still less to ruin her family. Remember, however, Gentlemen, that even had this wretched child been indiscreet, it is not in her name we ask for reparation; no, it is in the name of the parents her seducer has heart-broken; it is in the name of the poor helpless family he has desolated ; it is in the name of that misery, whose sanctuary he has violated; it is in the name of law, virtue, and morality; it is in the name of that country whose fair fame foreign envy will make responsible for this crime; it is in the name of nature's dearest, tenderest sympathies; it is in the name of all that gives your toil an object, and your ease a charm, and your age a hope-I ask from you the value of the poor man's child.





May it please your Lordship,

The Plaintiff's Counsel tell me, Gentlemen, most unexpectedly, that they have closed his case, and it becomes my duty to state to you that of the defendant. The nature of this action, you have already heard. It is one which, in my mind, ought to be very seldom brought, and very sparingly encouraged. It is founded on circumstances of the most extreme delicacy, and it is intended to visit with penal consequences the non-observance of an engagement, which is of the most paramount importance to society, and which of all others, perhaps, ought to be the most unbiassed, an engagement which, if it be voluntary, judicious, and disinterested, generally produces the happiest effects; but which, if it be either unsuitable or compulsory, engenders not only individual misery, but consequences universally pernicious. There are few contracts between human beings which should be more deliberate than that of marriage. I admit it should be very cautiously promised; but, even when promised, I am far from conceding that it should invariably be performed; a thousand circumstances may form an impediment; change of fortune may render it imprudent, change of affection may make it culpable. The very party to whom the law gives the privilege of complaint has perhaps the most reason to be grateful,--grateful that its happiness has not been surrendered to caprice; grateful that religion has not constrained an unwilling acquiescence, or made an unavoidable desertion doubly criminal; grateful that an offspring has not been sacrificed to the indelicate and ungenerous enforcement; grateful that an innocent secret disinclination did not too late evince itself in an irresistible and irremediable disgust. You will agree with me, however, that if there exists any excuse for such an action, it is on

« PreviousContinue »