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posed that I may be in some degree useful in investigating and discovering the truth respecting this most extraordinary murder. It has seemed to be a duty incumbent on me, as on every other citizen, to do my best and my utmost to bring to light the perpetrators of this crime. Against the prisoner at the bar, as an individual, I cannot have the slightest prejudice. I would not do him the smallest injury or injustice. But I do not affect to be indifferent to the discovery and the punishment of this deep guilt. I cheerfully share in the opprobrium, how great soever it may be, which is cast on those who feel and manifest an anxious concern that all who had a part in planning, or a hand in executing, this deed of midnight assassination, may be brought to answer for their enormous crime at the bar of public justice. Gentlemen, it is a most extraordinary case. In some respects, it has hardly a precedent anywhere; certainly none in our New England history. This bloody drama exhibited no suddenly-excited, ungovernable rage. The actors in it were not surprised by any lion-like temptation springing upon their virtue, and overcoming it, before resistance could begin. Nor did they do the deed to glut savage vengeance, or satiate long-settled and deadly hate. It was a cool, calculating, money-making murder. It was all “hire and salary, not revenge.” It was the weighing of money against life; the counting-out of so many pieces of silver against so many ounces of blood. An aged man, without an enemy in the world, in his own house and in his own bed, is made the victim of a butcherly murder for mere pay. Truly, here is a new lesson for painters and poets. Whoever shall hereafter draw the portrait of murder, if he will show it as it has been exhibited, where such example was last to have been looked for, in the very bosom of our New England society, let him not give it the grim visage of Moloch, the brow knitted by revenge, the face black with settled hate, and the bloodshot eye emitting livid fires of malice. Let him draw, rather, a decorous, smooth-faced, bloodless demon; a picture in repose, rather in action; not so much an example of human nature in its depravity, and in its paroxysms of crime, as an infernal being, a fiend, in the ordinary display and development of his character. The deed was executed with a degree of self-possession and steadiness equal to the wickedness with which it was planned. The circumstances now clear in evidence spread out the whole scene before us. Deep sleep had fallen on the destined victim, and on all beneath his roof. A healthful old man, to whom sleep was sweet, the first sound slumbers of the night held him in their soft but strong embrace. The assassin enters, through the window already prepared, into an unoccupied apartment. With noiseless foot he paces the lonely hall, half-lighted by the Moon; he winds up the ascent of the stairs, and reaches the door of the chamber. Of this, he moves the lock by soft and continued pressure, till it turns on its hinges without noise ; and he enters, and beholds his victim before him. The room is uncommonly open to the admission of light. The face of the innocent sleeper is turned from the murderer, and the beams of the Moon, resting on the grey locks of his aged temple, show him where to strike. The fatal blow is given l and the victim passes, without a struggle or a motion, from the repose of sleep to the repose of death ! It is the assassin's purpose to make sure work; and he yet plies the dagger, though it is obvious that life has been destroyed by the blow of the bludgeon. He even raises the aged arm, that he may not fail in his aim at the heart, and replaces it again over the wounds of the poniard | To finish the picture, he explores the wrist for the pulse ! He feels for it, and ascertains that it beats no longer | It is accomplished. The deed is done. He retreats, retraces his steps to the window, passes out through it as he came in, and escapes. He has done the murder. No eye has seen him, no ear has heard him. The secret is his own, and it is safe Ah! Gentlemen, that was a dreadful mistake. Such a secret can be safe nowhere. The whole creation of God has neither nook nor corner where the guilty can bestow it, and say it is safe. Not to speak of that Eye which glances through all disguises, and beholds every thing as in the splendour of noon, such secrets of guilt are never safe from detection even by men. True it is, generally speaking, that “murder will out.” True it is, that Providence hath so ordained, and doth so govern things, that those who break the great law of Heaven by shedding man's blood seldom succeed in avoiding discovery. Especially, in a case exciting so much attention as this, discovery must come, and will come, sooner or later. A thousand eyes turn at once to explore every man, every thing, every circumstance, connected with the time and place; a thousand ears catch every whisper; a thousand excited minds intensely dwell on the scene, shedding all their light, and ready to kindle the slightest circumstance into a blaze of discovery. Meantime the guilty soul cannot keep its own secret. It is false to itself; or rather it feels an irresistible impulse of conscience to be true to itself. It labours under its guilty possession, and knows not what to do with it. The human heart was not made for the residence of such an inhabitant. It finds itself preyed on by a torment which it dares not acknowledge to God or man. A vulture is devouring it, and it can ask no sympathy or assistance, either from Heaven or Earth. The secret which the murderer possesses soon comes to possess him; and, like the evil spirits of which we read, it overcomes him, and leads him whithersoever it will. He feels it beating at his heart, rising to his throat, and demanding disclosure. He thinks the whole world sees it in his face, reads it in his eyes, and almost hears its workings in the very silence of his thoughts. It has become his master. It betrays his discretion, it breaks down his courage, it conquers his prudence. When suspicions from without begin to embarrass him, and the net of circumstance to entangle him, the fatal secret struggles with still greater violence to burst forth. It must be confessed, it will be confessed; there is no refuge from confession but suicide, and suicide is confession. Much has been said, on this occasion, of the excitement which has existed, and still exists, and of the extraordinary measures taken to discover and punish the guilty. No doubt there has been, and is, much excitement, and strange indeed it would be, had it been otherwise. Should not all the peaceable and well-disposed naturally feel concerned, and naturally exert themselves to bring to punishment the authors of this secret assassination? Was it a thing to be slept upon or forgotten? Did you, Gentlemen, sleep quite as quietly in your beds after this murder as before? Was it not a case for rewards, for meetings, for committees, for the united efforts of all the good, to find out a band of murderous conspirators, of midnight ruffians, and to bring them to the bar of justice and law 2 If this be excitement, is it an unnatural or an improper excitement? It seems to me, Gentlemen, that there are appearances of another feeling, of a very different nature and character; not very extensive, I would hope, but still there is too much evidence of its existence. Such is human nature, that some persons lose their abhorrence of crime in their admiration of its magnificent exhibitions. Ordinary vice is reprobated by them, but extraordinary guilt, exquisite wickedness, the high flights and poetry of crime, seize on the imagination, and lead them to forget the depths of the guilt, in admiration of the excellence of the performance, or the unequalled atrocity of the purpose. There are those in our day who have made great use of this infirmity of our nature, and by means of it done infinite injury to the cause of good morals. They have affected not only the taste, but, I fear, also the principles, of the young, the heedless, and the imaginative, by the exhibition of interesting and beautiful monsters. They render depravity attractive, sometimes by the polish of its manners, and sometimes by its very extravagance; and study to show off crime under all the advantages of cleverness and dexterity. Gentlemen, this is an extraordinary murder, but it is still a murder. We are not to lose ourselves in wonder at its origin, or in gazing on its cool and skilful execution. We are to detect and to punish it; and while we proceed with caution against the prisoner, and are to be sure that we do not visit on his head the offences of others, we are yet to consider that we are dealing with a case of most atrocious crime, which has not the slightest circumstance about it to soften its enormity. It is murder; deliberate, concerted, malicious, murder.
The learned counsel for the defendant are more concerned, they assure us, for the law itself than even for their client. Your decision in this case, they say, will stand as a precedent. Gentlemen, we hope it will. . We hope it will be a precedent both of candour and intelligence, of fairness and of firmness; a precedent of good sense and honest purpose pursuing their investigation discreetly, rejecting loose generalities, exploring all the circumstances, weighing each, in search of truth, and embracing and declaring the truth when found. It is said that “laws are made, not for the punishment of the guilty, but for the protection of the innocent.” This is not quite accurate perhaps ; but, if so, we hope they will be so administered as to give that protection. But who are the innocent whom the law would protect? Gentlemen, Joseph White was innocent. They are innocent who, having lived in the fear of God through the day, wish to sleep in His peace through the night, in their own beds. The law is established, that those who live quietly may sleep quietly; that they who do no harm may feel none. The gentleman can think of none that are innocent except the prisoner at the bar, not yet convicted. Is a proved conspirator in murder innocent? What is innocence? How much stained with blood, how reckless in crime, how deep in depravity may it be, and yet remain innocence? The law is made, if we would speak with entire accuracy, to protect the innocent by punishing the guilty. But there are those innocent out of court, as well as in ; innocent citizens not suspected of crime, as well as innocent prisoners at the bar. The criminal law is not founded in a principle of vengeance. It does not punish, that it may inflict suffering. The humanity of the law feels and regrets every pain it causes, every hour of restraint it imposes, and more deeply still every life it forfeits. But it seeks to deter from crime by the example of punishment. This is its true, and only true main object. It restrains the liberty of the few offenders, that the many who do not offend may enjoy their liberty. It takes the life of the murderer, that other murders may not be committed. The law might open the jails, and at once set free all persons accused of offences; and it ought to do so, if it could be made certain that no other offences would hereafter be committed; because it punishes, not to satisfy any desire to inflict pain, but simply to prevent the repetition of crimes. When the guilty, therefore, are not punished, the law has so far failed of its purpose ; the safety of the innocent is so far endangered. Every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man's life. And whenever a jury, through whimsical and ill-founded scruples, suffer the guilty to escape, they make themselves answerable for the augmented danger of the innocent.
I HAVE read Tom Moore's first volume of Byron's Life. Whatever human imagination shall hereafter picture of a human being, I shall believe it all within the bounds of credibility. IByron's case shows that fact sometimes runs by all fancy, as a steamboat passes a scow at anchor. I have tried hard to find something in him to like besides his genius and his wit, but there was no other likable quality about him. He was an incarnation of demonism. He is the only man, in English history, for a hundred years, who has boasted of infidelity, and of every practical vice, not included in what may be termed (what his biographer does term) meanness. Lord Bolingbroke, in his most extravagant youthful sallies, and the wicked Lord Littleton, were saints to him. All Moore can say is, each of his vices had some virtue or some prudence near it, which in some sort checked it. Well, if that were not so in all, who would escape hanging? The biographer, indeed, says his worst conduct must not be judged by an ordinary standard | And this is true, if a favourable decision is looked for. Many excellent reasons are given for his being a bad husband, the sum of which is, that he was a very bad man. I confess, I was rejoiced then, and am rejoiced now, that he was driven out of England by public scorn; for his vices were not in his passions, but in his principles. He denied all religion and all virtue from the house-top. Dr. Johnson says there is merit in maintaining good principles, though the preacher is seduced into a violation of them. This is true. Good theory is something. But a theory of living, and of dying, too, made up of the elements of hatred to religion, contempt of morals, and defiance of the opinion of all the decent part of the public,+when, before, has a man of letters avowed