Page images
PDF
EPUB

to the blessings of a free constitution; Superstition has found her grave in the ruins of the inquisition ;* and the feudal system, with its whole train of tyrannic satellites, has fled for ever. Kings may learn from him that their safest study, as well as their noblest, is the interest of the people; the people are taught by him that there is no despotism so stupendous against which they have not a resource; and to those who would rise

upon

the ruins of both, he is a living lesson, that if ambition can raise them from the lowest station, it can also prostrate them from the highest.

* What melancholy reflections does not this sentence awaken! But three years have elapsed since it was written, and in that short space all the good effected by Napoleon has been erased by the Legitimates, and the most questionable parts of his character badly imitated !-His successors want nothing but his genius.

[ocr errors]

12*

SPEECH OF MR. PHILLIPS

IN THE CASE OF

BROWNE 0. BLAKE:

FOR CRIM. CON.

DELIVERED IN DUBLIN ON THE 9th JULY, 1817.

My Lord and Gentlemen,

I am instructed by the plaintiff to lay his case before you, and little do I wonder at the great interest which it seems to have excited. It is one of those cases which come home to the “ business and the bosoms” of mankind-it is not confined to the individuals concerned—it visits every circle, from the highest to the lowest—it alarms the very heart of the community, and commands the whole social family to the spot where human nature, prostrated at the bar of public justice, calls aloud for pity and protection! On my first addressing a jury upon a subject of this nature, I took the high ground to which I deemed myself entitled—I stood upon the purity of the national character-I relied upon that chastity which centuries had made proverbial, and almost drowned the cry of individual suffering in the violated reputation of the country. Humbled and abashed, I must resign the topic-indignation at the novelty of the offence has given way to horror at the frequency of its repetition--it is now becoming almost fashionable amongst us; we are importing the follies, and naturalizing the vices of the continent; scarcely a term passes in these courts, during which some unabashed adulterer or seducer does not announce himself, improving on the odiousness of his offence by the profligacy of his justification, and, as it were, struggling to record by crimes, the desolating progress of our barbarous civilization. Gentlemen, if this be suffered to continue, what home shall be safe, what hearth shall be sacred, what parent can, for a moment, calculate on the possession of his child, what child shall be secure against the or

a

phanage that springs from prostitution; what solitary right, whether of life or of liberty, or of property in the land, shall survive amongst us, if that hallowed couch which modesty has veiled, and love endeared, and religion consecrated, is to be invaded by a vulgar and promiscuous libertinism! A time there was when that couch was inviolable in Ireland—when conjugal infidelity was deemed but an invention-when marriage was considered as a sacrament of the heart, and faith and affection sent a mingled flame together from the altar; are such times to dwindle into a legend of tradition ? are the dearest rights of man, and the holiest ordinances of God, no more to be respected ? Is the marriage vow to become but the prelude to perjury and prostitution? Shall our enjoyments debase themselves into an adulterous participation, and our children propagate an incestuous community? Hear the case which I am fated to unfold, and then tell me whether a single virtue is yet to linger amongst us with impunity: whether honour, friendship or hospitality, are to be sacred: whether that endearing confidence by which the bitterness of this life is sweetened is to become the instrument of a perfidy beyond conception; and whether the protection of the roof, the fraternity of the board, the obligations of the altar, and the devotion of the heart, are to be so many panders to the hellish abominations they should have purified.—Hear the case which must go forth to the world, but which I trust in God your verdict will accompany, to tell that world, that if there was vice enough amongst us to commit the crime, there is virtue enough to brand it with an indignant punishment.

Of the plaintiff, Mr. Browne, it is quite impossible but you must have heard much-his misfortune has given him sad celebrity; and it does seem a peculiar incident to such misfortune, that the loss of happiness is almost invariably succeeded by the deprivation of character. As the less guilty murderer will hide the corse that may lead to his detection, so does the adulterer, by obscuring the reputation of his victim, seek to diminish the moral responsibility he had incurred. Mr. Browne undoubtedly forms no exception to this system-betrayed by his friend, and abandoned by his wife, his too generous confidence, his too tender love has been slanderously perverted into the sources of his calamity. Because he could not tyrannize over her whom he adored, he was careless—because he could not suspect him in whom he trusted, he was careless ; and crime in the infatuation of its cunning found its justification even on the virtues of its victim! I am not deterred by the prejudice thus cruelly excited—I appeal from the gossiping credulity of scandal to the grave decisions of fathers and of husbands; and I implore of you, as you value the blessings of your bome, not to countenance the calumny which solicits a precedent to excuse their spoliation. At the close of the year 1809, the death of my client's father gave him the inheritance of an ample fortune. Of all the joys his prosperity created, there was none but yielded to the ecstacy of sharing it with her he loved, the daughter of his father's ancient friend, the respectable proprietor of Oran Castle. She was then in the very spring of life, and never did the sun of heaven unfold a lovelier blossom -her look was beauty and her breath was fragrance—the eye that saw her caught a lustre from the vision; and all the virtues seemed to linger round her, like so many spotless spirits enamour. ed of her loveliness.

“ Yes, she was good as she was fair,

None, none on earth above her ;
As pure in thought as angels are ;

To see her, was to love her.” What years of tongueless transport might not her happy husband have anticipated! What one addition could her beauties gain to render them all perfect! In the connubial rapture there was only one, and she was blessed with it. A lovely family of infant children gave her the consecrated name of mother, and with it all that heaven can give of interest to this world's worthlessness. Can the mind imagine a more delightful vision than that of such a mother, thus young, thus lovely, thus beloved, blessing a husband's heart, basking in a world's smile; and while she breathed into her little ones, the moral light, showing them that, robed in all the light of beauty, it was still possible for their virtues to cast it into the shade. Year after year of happiness rolled on, and every year but added to their love, a pledge to make it happier than the former. Without ambition but her husband's love, without one object but her children's happiness, this lovely woman, circled in her orbit, all bright, all beauteous in the prosperous hour, and if that hour e'er darkened, only beaming the brighter and the lovelier. What human hand could mar so pure a picture ?—What punishment could adequately visit its violation?

"Oh happy love, where love like this is found !

Oh, heafttelt rapture! bliss beyond compare !". It was indeed the summer of their lives, and with it came the swarm of summer friends, that revel in the sunshine of the hour, and vanish with its splendour.—High and honoured in that crowd -most gay, most cherished, most professing, stood the defendant,

, Mr. Blake. He was the plaintiff's dearest, fondest friend, to every pleasure called, in every case consulted, his day's companion, and his evening guest, his constant, trusted, bosom confident, and, under guise of all, oh human nature ! he was his fellest, deadliest, final enemy! Here, on the authority of this brief, do I arraign him, of having wound himself into my client's intimacy-of having encouraged that intimacy into friendship, of having counterfeited a sympathy in his joys and in his sorrows; and when he seemed too pure aven for scepticism itself to doubt him, of having, under the very sanctity of his roof, perpetrated an adultery the most unprecedented and perfidious! If this be true, can the world's wealth defray the penalty of such turpitude ? Mr. Browne, Gentlemen, was ignorant of every agricultural pursuit, and, unfortunately adopting the advice of his father-in-law, he cultivated the amusements of the Curragh. I say unfortunately, for his own affairs, and by no means in reference to the pursuit itself. It is not for me to libel an occupation which the highest, and noblest, and most illustrious throughout the empire, countenance by their adoption, which fashion and virtue grace by its attendance, and in which, peers and legislators and princes are not ashamed to appear conspicuous. But if the morality that countenances it be doubtful, by what epithet shall we designate that which would make it an apology for the most profligate of offences ? Even if Mr. Browne's pursuits were ever so erroneous, was it for his bosom friend to take advantage of them to ruin him? On this subject, it is sufficient for me to remark, that under circumstances of prosperity or vicissitudes, was their connubial liappiness ever even remotely clouded ? In fact, the plaintiff disregarded even the amusements that deprived him of her society. He took a house for her in the vicinity of Kildare, furnished it with all that luxury could require, and afforded her the greatest of all luxuries, that of enjoying and enhancing his most prodigal affection. From the hour of their marriage, up to the unfortunate discovery, they lived on terms of the utmost tenderness ; not a word, except one of love; not an act, except of mutual

« PreviousContinue »