Page images

right to the list of witnesses and the caption, with closeness, vigour, and eloquence.

Having developed the professional and intellectual characteristics of counsel for the accused, so far forth as lay in our feeble power, it would be invidious and altogether unfair not to deal in the same spirit by the less popular servants of the crown. The Attorney-General, by his office as well as by his reputation, stands at the head of her majesty's legal chivalry. Having failed, as we right truly prophesied, in vindicating the claims of our country to eloquence in parliamenthaving fallen even far lower than our estimate in sustaining his character as a debater within his own peculiar province, and thus sunk into ministerial disfavour, he has resolved to retrieve his position as a lawyer by prosecuting the indictment with the utmost rigour and effect. Most unfortunately was that unpopular obligation cast upon him! How many more enviable Attorneys-General had passed with velvet pace to the realization of all their hopes, without being committed in a desperate struggle with the prejudices and passions of the country! How many stole from an inferior status at the bar to the blushing honours of the bench, scarcely affording a public intimation of their fortunate progress! And behold Mr. Smith, not yet a year in office, standing out in bold relief the mark for general odium! Persecution is most abhorrent to our feelings-we hate it through every shape it may assume-we pity and sympathise with the object on whom it falls-enough for us that he passes through public duty to persecution. We would deal justly with all men. His enemies do not deny that Mr. Smith has a bold and manly spirit, and would scorn to commit himself to dishonour; but even his warmest friends must acknowledge that his temper is irritable-that his deportment in the earlier stages of the prosecution has been often injudicious, and that his dislike to the accused or their cause found vent in gusts of extreme bitterness, most unbecoming in a public officer. Proofs ought of justice precede assertion. No man is so severe as he who confounds his duties with his antipathies. It is this self-delusion that operated, in the beginning, on the mind of the Attorney-General, but he afterwards overcame this fatal error, and passed through the subsequent stages if not with much approbation, at least without much censure. He cannot be well blamed for seeking to establish his case, but for that end he was bound to resort to only legitimate means. He was imprudent and precipitate in the outbreak; but the formidable power of public opinion, to which tribunals the most serene and distant from its penetrating influence are amenable, as well perhaps as a conscientious sense of honourable duty, induced him to try less rigorous courses, and we frankly recognise in the good grace with which he yielded to Mr. Henn's proposal, the candid desire that justice should not be sacrificed in the strife. Making due allowance for trivial infirmities of disposition, for all Attorneys-General are not invested with the impassiveness and impersonality of Sir Frederick Pollock, his conduct has been that of a gentleman. This, it may be said, is but a poor panegyric, but the objectors should reflect on the many causes suggestive of violence and recrimination which our political condition affords, and more particularly when the snares of the law are laid to encompass the feet

of such person as Mr. O'Connell. Mr. Smith has once acted with severe and reprehensible injustice. He prejudged the case. The law of England presumes innocence-he has presumed guilt. There is no verdict without evidence-he has pronounced one without any. He attacked the press for seeking to influence the public mind-how was the Attorney-General more within the constitution when he denounced untried men as "Conspirators?" That was beyond his duty. He is accused of ignorance. That is unfounded. He knows his business, but he knows it too well, for he surrounds the accused with a set of technical traps which are only unspringed by the equal vigilance and intelligence of his adversaries. He is contrasted in his deficiencies with the superior knowledge of the English law officers. The contrast does not operate to his discredit. They were cooler, but not more professionally skilful. Lord Campbell's common law erudition did not prevent the acquittal of Earl Cardigan on the misdescription of a name, for we do not believe the voluntary omission. Sir William Follett passed over a miserable defect in the venue on the chartist trials, which, in the days of his dock-splendour, the practised eye of Burke Bethel could not fail to have discovered. We did not then hear of galling and fierce invective lavished on the law officers of England— we did not hear that they were charged with gross ignorance. Why refuse the same measure of justice to the Irish Attorney-General? Neither, in truth, is to blame.

The charge lies more fairly against the laws-the humane laws of England-which do not suffer the dispatch of the Roman Rota, but surround the accused with a chevaux-de-frise of forms, all which must be won before the prosecutor can penetrate to the heart of the citadel. These generous provisions may be so many obstructions to justice in the eye of the philosopher, but they are the law. Under their protection, the accused stands entrenched-his safety consists in their subtlety and difficulty of detection. Let the crown get at him through the invisible network as best it can, but there is no short path. The highway must be travelled by all alike. Until the process of accusation is simplified, and despotic institutions supersede the free, there will remain shadowy and evanescent points to elude or provoke the sagacity of lawyers. It is because Mr. Smith could not overleap this sacred fence, and at once strike down the accused, that the attacks of his own party have fallen upon him without measure. We would rejoice in the failure of the indictments. A government having recourse to such coarse vindications of its authority, understands not the true direction of its interests or those of the people. But an officer of the crown must stand by the measures of the crown. It is the condition of his office. If Mr. Smith was intemperate, he was not insidious. We would prefer the man whose heart we could read in his countenance, to the sly, crafty intriguer, who, under the mask of affected mildness, would coolly strangle his victim. He is anxious for a conviction-he too warmly displayed that feeling-but that very anxiety roused his opponents to greater caution, and to that extent there was a decided advantage in his impetuosity. The points of defence are more numerous and available than those of attack, and the strategic skill with which they were directed, proved eminently

embarrassing to the law officers. Had Mr. Smith behaved with more grace, the commiseration would have been greater. He must catch Mr. O'Connell, and to that end paid too much attention to vicious advisers

[blocks in formation]

One would imagine Shakspeare wrote for the familiars of the AttorneyGeneral. What he will accomplish at the trial remains to be known. He has promised mighty events. He will unravel the hidden links of the most "dangerous conspiracy" that ever threatened the repose of the world. He will be the Cicero of another Cataline-the great stay of the republic-the true father of his country. Haughtier promises have often ended in vapour. We can at least promise that he will not rival the Roman in eloquence. What if the Irish Cataline should confront him? He will prove a more terrible adversary than the debauched patrician. It is supposed that Mr. Smith's statement will occupy two days; and if his oration possess no other merit, it will be remarkable for the nice arrangement and application of the evidence, a feat of advocacy in which he has few equals. His friends are not quite sanguine of his success, though nothing to which time, labour, and learning can subserve, will be overlooked. He is now in the full height and depth of preparation, sounding the recesses of the State Trials for material. The heads of his grand Catalinarian are already disposed in due order, and the subdivisions drilled under their respective leaders. The fifteenth will be his triumph or his ruin.

The Solicitor-General, Mr. Greene, actively co-operated in the management; and well had it been for the Attorney-General that he had his practised prudence and discretion. It was impossible to have behaved with more moderation and tempered good sense than Mr. Greene throughout the proceedings. He used no irritating or offensive language-keeping himself strictly to the legal questions he was called on to argue, he neither transcended or fell behind his duty. He was calm and dispassionate-the alkali which neutralized the acid of his less reserved brother. With a moiety of the responsibility, and more than a moiety of the labour-for by him, it is said, the voluminous indictment was prepared, yet the general censure has left him untouched-he escaped the scorching flame to which Mr. Smith was exposed, simply because he abandoned predictions and prejudgments, and executed, what devolved upon him, with temper and sobriety. He conjectured nothing-inferred nothing-stated nothing beyond his instructions; hence his just escape and comparative popularity. He is rather a nervous man, unfitted for times of peril, when extraordinary occasions require vigorous and energetic minds, whether to subdue or resist. The Solicitor-General would prefer walking quietly through office, instead of sharing the weight of such a burthenmoving from Chancery to the Exchequer all the live-long day is more suited to his quiet habits, than entangling his character in state prosecutions. He is no petrel-he loves not the tempest. His Jan. 1844.-VOL. XXXIX.-NO. CLIII.


mind is essentially calculated for repose. He has always endeavoured to avoid popular collision. Serving under opposite administrations, no servant of the crown has less elicited the dislike of contending parties. He has been from the beginning a commissioner of national education-a fair test of moderate opinions. In these times, the even temper of such a mild adviser is of some value. He should be listened to, for he will direct the crown in the path of safety and prudence. Being, as we observed, less a man of war than peace, the question is, whether he will stand out the fiery pressure. Judging from the past, our opinion is that he will not fail. The clear intellect of Mr. Henn, and the logical precision of Mr. Moore will find in the SolicitorGeneral a ready and skilful adversary. The grand reply will fall to his lot, embodying a mass of matter such as no recorded cause contains-and though he cannot be eloquent, he will be lucid and argumentative. He will lay down principles clearly and forcibly. This is his peculiar power. Without the earnestness of the Attorney-General, he will make a deeper impression on the jury by the sincerity and sobriety of his language and manner.

Mr. Brewster is the real Attorney-General. He is the mens agitans molem―the influence which pervades the mass, and directs it towards its destined end. Mr. Smith is the conduit-pipe which conveys his feelings and opinions, so that he bears the double weight of his own and Mr. Brewster's sentiments. He is unquestionably a clever man a good tactician, but a coarse one-skilled in the conduct of a case, but exaggerating his importance by putting himself too prominently forward, and arguing most unarguable points, rather to prove his zeal than establish his cause. He is fond of saying sharp things, which speak more for the ill-nature of the mind than the quickness of the intellect, or the solidity of the judgment. A keen and polished sarcasm is power misdirected, but still power-while a lax and angular rudeness, without wit to vivify, or common humour to make it palatable, can never be mistaken for strength. It is the merest, most worthless husk. There were times when this quality was in high repute in our courts-when the old practitioners of the Common Pleas, under the able direction of a Norbury, rivalled each other in garrulity and grotesqueness-when abusive brow-beating was the pass-word to favour, and the scenes of the penny theatre were enacted in the grave temples of justice. Advocates then played to applauding galleries, while the judge shook with convulsive laughter, and exploded in a pun. Of this system Mr. Brewster is a mitigated representative. He is the last shoot of the decayed tree, and we hope the species will not be further propagated. Decency in an advocate is like drapery in painting-it covers a multitude of defects-where it is not, be assured the higher qualifications are only vanishing quantities, and even the secondary are weak. True intellectual power loves repose. Mr. Brewster is quite a paragon in the careless facility with which he pumps out a flood of severity on whoever crosses his way. He is of the "pitch-into-him" school, disdaining all self-control, and making his tongue one of those instruments of torture which we read of in the history of the Inquisition, straining the muscles and sinews until they cracked, and the eye-balls burst from their sockets. Where an

honest witness is to be discomfited, or a bad cause buttressed with adroit manœuvres, he is the man for one and the other. He will draw his silk gown more tightly about him-cast down his eyes and erect his eyebrows-look up at the witness with his mouth drawn into a most expressive oval, signifying a high state of incredulity- then the brazen-headed ram is applied to the walls, and a breach effected. This, however, is not the fitting occasion to complete the details of character. We have only given an imperfect outline of the third law officer, and the character of the co-operation which he is likely to afford on the coming trials. Mr. B. must change his tactics. Fierce resistance-reproachful language-the attribution of foul motivesthe insinuation of false swearing, may do very well in ordinary cases; but this occasion is too solemn and momentous for any such displays. Nay, even that most characteristic winking ought be abandoned, and the pursing of his cheek dispensed with. Let him poke in silence the right side of the Attorney-General-let him fill the hollow of his ear with marvels of knowledge-but no sneering-no "thrashing" of solicitors-none of the vulgar bye-play. Let all these syrups be corked up for a future day-their acidulous properties will not dete riorate with time.

Passing over Mr. Bennett, the kind and considerate father of the Munster bar, whom, in our hearts, we could not restrict to the limits of a single page, our utmost disposable allowance,—we alight on Mr. Tomb. He is a most able lawyer-a finished gentleman, and a most crafty advocate. In him the crown has a choice man, quiet as Somnus, but vigilant as Argus and cunning as Mercury. We rank him above all the officers of the crown in caution and shrewdness. His judgment is of the first order. In the prosecution or defence of prisoners, no man approaches him in the delicate art of eliciting an important admission from a hard-grained falsifier, or in deadening the effects of one which operates against himself. He scratches the lower region of his ear with his forefinger, and with the semblance of the most unaffected fair dealing, puts in a sober question, technically called a "lurcher." If the answer be not to his satisfaction, he skims the palate of his mouth with his versute tongue, as if he were about to stammer, and repeats the dose with a different gilding. Thus he goes on-probing with exquisite keenness, and generally succeeds in his filch. The most fatal answer to his case is disposed of with inimitable coolness. When a witness strikes a mortal stroke, Mr. Tomb passes it off with an "exactly so—I am aware of that!"-not a muscle moves he appears as little disconcerted as if there were nothing at all in the matter. When crown prosecutor on the north-east circuit, not an alibi could escape him. The best-contrived inventions could not stand against his searching scrutiny-he took them asunder with marvellous ease, and during his regime they were gradually sinking into disuse. Now, however, they are again on the ascendant, and the chances of escape improve. Mr. Tomb enjoys the sobriquet of the "Artful Dodger," to which he is eminently entitled. He looks the subtle trepanner. Mr. Holmes said, "his face would make his fortune as a comic actor;" and certainly there is a touch of Liston about his features, but without any of his solemn ugliness.

« PreviousContinue »