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David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) online

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Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 30 of 39)
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in his acquittal; they will convey him kindly and fondly to their
shore; and he will return in triumph to his country, to the thres-
hold of his sacred home, and to the weeping welcome of his



JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN -q^

delighted family; he will find that the darkness of a dreary and a
lingering night hath at length passed away, and that joy cometh
in the morning. No, my lords, I have no fear for the ultimate
safety of my client. Even in these very acts of brutal violence
that have been committed against him, do I hail the flattering
hope of final advantage to him, and of better days and more
prosperous fortune for this afflicted country — that country of
which I have so often abandoned all hope, and which I have
been so often determined to quit forever.

ScBpe vale dicto multa sutfi deinde locutus
Et quasi discedens oscula summa daba?n,
Indulgens aninw, pes tardus erat.

But I am reclaimed from that infidel despair — I am satisfied
that while a man is suffered to live, it is an intimation from
Providence that he has some duty to discharge, which it is mean
and criminal to decline; had I been guilty of that ignominious
flight, and gone to pine in the obscurity of some distant retreat,
even in that grave I should have been haunted by those passions
by which my life had been agitated —

QiicR cura vivos,
Eadem sequitur tellure repostos.

And, if the transactions of this day had reached me, I feel how
my heart would have been agonized by the shame of the deser-
tion; nor would my sufferings have been mitigated by a sense of
the feebleness of that aid, or the smallness of that service which
I could render or withdraw. They would have been aggravated
by the consciousness that, however feeble or worthless they were,
I should not have dared to thieve them from my country. I
have repented; I have stayed; and I am at once rebuked and
rewarded by the happier hopes that I now entertain. In the
anxious sympathy of the public, in the anxious sympathy of my
learned brethren, do I catch the happy presage of a brighter
fate for Ireland. They see that within these sacred walls, the
cause of liberty and of man may be pleaded with boldness and
heard with favor. I am satisfied they will never forget the great
trust, of which they alone are now the remaining depositaries.
While they continue to cultivate a sound and literate philosophy,
a mild and tolerating Christianity, and to make both the sources
of a just and liberal and constitutional jurisprudence, I see every-



2o8 JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN

thing for us to hope. Into their hands, therefore, with the most
affectionate confidence in their virtue, do I commit these precious
hopes. Even I may live long enough yet to see the approaching
completion, if not the perfect accomplishment of them. Pleased
shall I then resign the scene to fitter actors; pleased shall I lay
down my wearied head to rest, and say: ** Lord, now lettest thou
thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine
eyes have seen thy salvation."



FOR PETER FINNERTY AND FREE SPEECH
(From the Speech at the Trial of Finnerty for Libel, December 22d, 1797)

I TELL you, therefore, gentlemen of the jury, it is not with re-
spect to Mr. Orr, or Mr. Finnerty, that your verdict is now
sought. You are called upon, on your oaths, to say that the
government is wise and merciful — the people prosperous and
happy; that military law ought to be continued; that the consti-
tution could not with safety be restored to Ireland; and that the
statements of a contrary import by your advocates, in either
country, are libellous and false.

I tell you these are the questions; and I ask you, if you can
have the front to give the expected answer in the face of a com-
munity who know the country as well as you do. Let me ask
you how you could reconcile with such a verdict, the gaols, the
tenders, the gibbets, the conflagrations, the murders, the procla-
mations that we hear of every day in the streets, and see every
day in the country. What are the prosecutions of the learned
counsel himself, circuit after circuit ? Merciful God ! what is the
state of Ireland, and where shall you find the wretched inhabi-
tant of this land ? You may find him, perhaps, in a gaol, the
only place of security — I had almost said of ordinary habitation!
If you do not find him there, you may see him flying with his
family from the flames of his own dwelling — lighted to his dun-
geon by the conflagration of his hovt^l; or you may find his bones
bleaching on the green fields of his country; or you may find
him tossing on the surface of the ocean, and mingling his groans
with those tempests, less savage than his persecutors, that drift
him to a retumless distance from his family and his home, with-
out charge, or trial, or sentence. Is this a foul misrepresenta-
tion ? Or can you, with these facts ringing in your ears, and



JOHN PHILPOT CURRAls 309

staring in your face, say, upon your oaths, they do not exist ?
You are called upon, in defiance of shame, of truth, of honor, to
deny the sufferings under which you groan, and to flatter the
persecution that tramples you under foot.

Gentlemen, I am not accustomed to speak of circumstances of
this kind; and though familiarized as I have been to them, when
I come to speak of them, my power fails me — my voice dies
within me. I am not able to call upon you. It is now I ought
to have strength; it is now I ought to have energy and voice.
But I have none; I am like the unfortunate state of the country,
— perhaps like you. This is the time in which I ought to speak,
if I can, or be dumb forever; in which, if you do not speak as
you ought, you ought to be dumb forever.

But the learned gentleman is further pleased to say that the
traverser has charged the Government with the encouragement
of informers. This, gentlemen, is another small fact that you are
to deny at the hazard of your souls and upon the solemnity of
your oaths. You are upon your oaths to say to the sister coun-
try that the government of Ireland uses no such abominable
instruments of destruction as informers. Let me ask you hon-
estly. What do you feel when, in my hearing, when, in the face of
this audience, you are called upon to give a verdict that every
man of us, and every man of you, know, by the testimony of your
own eyes, to be utterly and absolutely false ? I speak not now
of the public proclamation for informers, with a promise of se-
crecy and of extravagant reward; I speak not of the fate of those
horrid wretches who have been so often transferred from the
table to the dock, and from the dock to the pillory; I speak of
what your own eyes have seen, day after day, during the course
of this commission, from the box where vou are now sitting;
the number of horrid miscreants who acknowledged upon their
oaths that they had come from the seat of government — from
the very chambers of the Castle — where they had been worked
upon by the fear of death and the hope of compensation, to give
evidence against their fellows; that the mild, the wholesome, and
merciful councils of this government are holden over these cata-
combs of living death, where the wretch that is buried a man
lies till his heart has time to fester and dissolve, and is then
dug up a witness!

Is this a picture created by a hag-ridden fancy, or is it a fact ?
Have you not seen him, after his resurrection from that region



3IO JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN

of death and corruption, make his appearance upon the table,
the living image of life in death, and the supreme arbiter of
both? Have you not marked when he entered how the stormy
wave of the multitude retired at his approach? Have you not
seen how the human heart bowed to the supremacy of his power,
in the undissembled homage of deferential horror ? how his
glance, like the lightning of heaven, seemed to rive the body of
the accused and mark it for the grave, while his voice warned
the devoted wretch of woe and death -^ — a death which no inno-
cence can escape, no art elude, no force resist, no antidote pre-
vent? There was an antidote — a juror's oath! — but even that
adamantine chain that bound the integrity of man to the throne
of "eternal justice is solved and molten in the breath that issues
from the informer's mouth; conscience swings from her moor-
ings, and the appalled and affrighted juror consults his own
safety in the surrender of the victim: —

Et qucz sibi quisqiie timebaf,
Unius in miseri exitiuni conversa tulere.

Informers are worshiped in the temple of justice, even as the
devil has been worshiped by Pagans and savages; even so in this
wicked country is the informer an object of judicial idolatry;
even so is he soothed by the music of human groans; even so
is he placated and incensed by the fumes and by the blood of
human sacrifices.



THE DIVERSIONS OF A MARQUIS

(From the Speech in Behalf of Rev. Charles Massy against the Marquis of
Headford, who Eloped with Mrs. Massy; at the Ennis County Assizes,
July 27th, 1804)

IN THE middle of the day, at the moment of Divine worship,
when the miserable hu^and was on his knees, directing the
prayers and thanksgiving of his congregation to their God,
that moment did the remorseless adulterer choose to carry off the
deluded victim from, her husband, from her child, from her
character, from her happiness, as if, not content to leave his
crime confined to its miserable aggravations, unless he gave it
a cast and color of factitious sacrilege and impiety. Oh! how
happy had it been when he arrived at the bank of the river



JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN 3II

with the ill-fated fugitive, ere yet he had committed her to that
boat, of which, like the fabled barque of Styx, the exile was
eternal — how happy at that moment, so teeming with misery
and shame, if you, my lord, had met him, and could have ac-
costed him in the character of that good genius which had aban-
doned him! How impressively might you have pleaded the cause
of the father, of the child, of the mother, and even of the worth-
less defendant himself ! You would have said, " Is this the re-
quital that you are about to make for respect, and kindness, and
confidence in your honor ? Can you deliberately expose this
young man, in the bloom of life, with all his hopes before him ?
Can you expose him, a wretched outcast from society, to the
scorn of a merciless world ? Can you set him a drift upon the
tempestous ocean of his own passions, at this early season when
they are most headstrong; and can you cut him out from the
moorings of those domestic obligations by whose cable he might
ride at safety from their turbulence ? Think of, if you can con-
ceive it, what a powerful influence arises from the sense of home,
from the sacred religion of the hearth in quelling the passions,
in reclaiming the wanderings, in correcting the discords of the
human heart; do not cruelly take from him the protection of
these attachments. But if you have no pity for the father, have
mercy, at least, upon his innocent and helpless child; do not con-
demn him to an education scandalous or neglected; do not
strike him into that most dreadful of all human conditions, the
orphanage that springs not from the grave, that falls not from
the hand of Providence, or the stroke of death, but comes before
its time, anticipated and inflicted by the remorseless cruelty of
parental guilt. '^ For the poor victim herself, — not yet immolated,
— while yet balancing upon the pivot of her destiny, your heart
could not be cold, nor your tongue be wordless. You would have
said to him, " Pause, my lord, while there is yet a moment for
reflection. What are your motives, what your views, what your
prospects from what you are about to do ? You are a married
man, the husband of the most amiable and respectable of women;
you cannot look to the chance of marrying this wretched fugitive ;
between you and such an event there are two sepulchres to pass.
What are your inducements? Is it love, think you? No; do
not give that name to any attraction you can find in the faded
refuse of a violated bed. Love is a noble and generous passion;
it can be founded only on a pure and ardent friendship, on an



312 JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN

exalted respect, on an implicit confidence in its object. Search
your heart, examine your judgment, do you find the semblance
of any one of these sentiments to bind you to her ? What could
degrade a mind to which nature or education had given port, or
stature, or character, into a friendship for her ? Could you re-
pose upon her faith ? Look in her face, my lord ; she is at this
moment giving you the violation of the most sacred of human
obligations at the pledge of her fidelity. She is giving you the
most irrefragable proof that, as she is deserting her husband for
you, so she would, without a scruple, abandon you for another.
Do you anticipate any pleasure you might feel in the possible
event of your becoming the parents of a common child ? She is
at this moment proving to you that she is as dead to the sense of
parental as of conjugal obligation; and that she would abandon
your offspring to-morrow with the same facility with which she
now deserts her own. Look then at her conduct, as it is, as the
world must behold it, blackened by every aggravation that can
make it either odious or contemptible, and unrelieved by a sin-
gle circumstance of mitigation that could palliate its guilt or
retrieve it from abhorrence.'* . . .

'^ Here is not the case of an unmarried woman, with whom a
pure and generous friendship may insensibly have ripened into
a more serious attachment, until at last her heart became too
deeply pledged to be reassumed. If so circumstanced, without
any husband to betray, or child to desert, or motive to restrain,
except what related solely to herself, her anxiety for your happi-
ness made her overlook every other consideration and commit
her history to your honor; in such a case (the strongest and the
highest that man's imagination can suppose), in which you at
least could see nothing but the most noble and disinterested sac-
rifice; in which you could find nothing but what claimed from
you the most kind and exalted sentiment of tenderness and de-
votion and respect, and in which the most fastidious rigor would
find so much more subject for sympathy than blame, — let me
ask you, could you, even in that case, answer for your own jus-
tice and gratitude ? I do not allude to the long and pitiful cata-
logue of paltry adventures, in which it seems your time has been
employed, — the coarse and vulgar succession of casual connec-
tions, joyless, loveless, and unendeared; but do you not find
upon your memory some trace of an engagement of the charac-
ter I have sketched ? Has not your >ense of what you would



JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN 313

owe in such a case, and to such a woman, been at least once
put to the test of experiment ? Has it not once at least hap-
pened that such a woman, with all the resolution of strong faith,
flung her youth, her hope, her beauty, her talent, upon your
bosom, weighed you against the world, which she found but a
feather in the scale, and took you as an equivalent ? How did
you then acquit yourself? Did you prove yourself worthy of the
sacred trust reposed in you ? Did your spirit so associate with
hers as to leave her no room to regret the splendid and disin-
terested sacrifice she had made ? Did her soul find a pillow in
the tenderness of yours, and support in its firmness ? Did you
preserve her high in your own consciousness, proud in your
admiration and friendship, and happy in your affection ? You
might have so acted, and the man that was worthy of her would
have perished rather than not so act, as to make her delighted
with having confided so sacred a trust to his honor. Did you
so act? Did she feel that, however precious to your heart, she
was still more exalted and honored in your reverence and re-
spect? Or did she find you coarse and paltry, fluttering and
unpurposed, unfeeling, and ungrateful ? You found her a fair
and blushing flower, its beauty and its fragrance bathed in the
dews of heaven. Did you so tenderly transplant it as to pre-
serve that beauty and fragrance unimpaired ? Or did you so
rudely cut it as to interrupt its nutriment, to waste its sweetness,
to blast its beauty, to bow down its faded and sickly head ? And
did you at last fling it like ^ a loathsome weed away ^ ? If then
to such a woman, so clothed with every title that could ennoble,
and exalt, and endear her to the heart of man, you would be
cruelly and capriciously deficient, how can a wretched fugitive
like this, in every point her contrast, hope to find you just ?
Send her then away. Send her back to her home, to her child,
to her husband, to herself.'* Alas, there was none to hold such
language to this noble defendant; he did not hold it to himself.
But he paraded his despicable prize in his own carriage, v/ith his
own retinue, his own servants — this veteran Paris hawked his
enamored Helen from this western quarter of the island to a
seaport in the eastern, crowned with the acclamations of a sense-
less and grinning rabble, glorying and delighted, no doubt, in
the leering and scoffing admiration of grooms and ostlers and
waiters as he passed.



314 JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN



AGAINST PENSIONS

(Delivered in the Irish Parliament, March 13th, 1786, in Support of a Bill

Limiting Pensions)

I OBJECT to adjourning this bill to the first of August, because I
perceive in the present disposition of the House that a proper
decision will be made upon it this night. We have set out
upon our inquiry in a manner so honorable, and so consistent,
that we have reason to expect the happiest success, which I
would not wish to see baffled by delay.

We began with giving the full affirmative of this House, that
no grievance exists at all; we considered a simple matter of
fact, and adjourned our opinion ; or rather, we gave sentence on
the conclusion, after having adjourned the premises. But I do
begin to see a great deal of argument in what the learned bar-
onet has said, and I beg gentlemen will acquit me of apostasy,
if I offer some reasons why the bill should not be admitted to a
second reading.

I am surprised that gentlemen have taken up such a foolish
opinion as that our Constitution is maintained by its different
component parts, mutually checking and controlling each other;
they seem to think, with Hobbes, that a state of nature is a state
of warfare, and that, like Mahomet's coffin, the Constitution is
suspended between the attraction of different powers. My friends
seem to think that the Crown should be restrained from doing
wrong by a physical necessity, forgetting that if you take away
from man all power to do wrong, you, at the same time, take
away from him all merit of doing right; and, by making it im-
possible for men to run into slavery, you enslave them most
effectually. But if, instead of the three different parts of our
Constitution drawing forcibly in right lines, in different direc-
tions, they were to unite their power, and draw all one way, in
one right line, how great would be the effect of their force, how
happy the direction of this union! The present system is not
only contrary to mathematical rectitude, but to public harmony;
but if, instead of Privilege setting up his back to oppose Prerog-
ative, he were to saddle his back and invite Prerogative to ride,
how comfortably they might both jog along! and therefore it de-
lights me to hear the advocates for the royal bounty flowing



JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN 315

freely and spontaneously and abundantly as Holywell in Wales.
If the Crown grant double the amount of the revenue in pen-
sions, they approve of their royal master, for he is the breath of
their nostrils.

But we shall find that this complaisance, this gentleness be-
tween the Crown and its true servants, is not confined at home;
it extends its influence to foreign powers. Our merchants have
been insulted in Portugal, our commerce interdicted; what did
the British lion do ? Did he whet his tusks ? Did he bristle up,
and shake his mane? Did he roar? No; no such a thing; the
gentle creature wagged his tail for six years at the court of
Lisbon; and now we hear from the Delphic Oracle on the treas-
ury bench, that he is wagging his tail in London to Chevalier
Pinto, who, he hopes soon to be able to tell us, will allow his
lady to entertain him as a lapdog; and when she does, no doubt
the British factory will furnish some of their softest woolens to
make a cushion for him to lie upon. But though the gentle
beast has continued so long fawning and couching, I believe his
vengeance will be great as it is slow, and that posterity, whose
ancestors are yet unborn, will be surprised at the vengeance he
will take!

This polyglot of wealth, this museum of curiosities, the pen-
sion list, embraces every link in the human chain, every descrip-
tion of men, women, and children, from the exalted excellence of
a Hawke or a Rodney, to the debased situation of the lady who
humbleth herself that she may be exalted. But the lessons it
inculcates form its greatest perfection; it teacheth that sloth and
vice may eat that bread which virtue and honesty may starve
for after they have earned it. It teaches the idle and dissolute
to look up for that support which they are too proud to stoop
and earn. It directs the minds of men to an entire reliance on
the ruling power of the State, who feed the ravens of the royal
aviary that continually cry for food. It teaches them to imitate
those saints on the pension list that are like the lilies of the
field, — they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet are arrayed like
Solomon in his glory. In fine, it teaches a lesson which, indeed,
they might have learned from Epictetus, that it is sometimes
good not to be over- virtuous ; it shows, that in proportion as our
distresses increase, the munificence of the Crown increases also;
in proportion as our clothes are rent, the royal mantle is ex-
tended over us.



oi5 JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN

Notwithstanding that the pension list, like charity, covers a
multitude of sins, give me leave to consider it as coming home
to the Members of this House, — give me leave to say that the
Crown in extending its charity, its liberality, its profusion, is lay-
ing a foundation for the independence of Parliament; for here-
after, instead of orators or patriots accounting for their conduct
to such mean and unworthy persons as freeholders, they will
learn to despise them, and look to the first man in the State; and
they will, by so doing, have this security for their independence,
that while any man in the kingdom has a shilling, they will not
want one.

Suppose at any future period of time the boroughs of Ireland
should decline from their present flourishing and prosperous state
— suppose they should fall into the hands of men who would
wish to drive a profitable commerce, by having Members of Par-
liament to hire or let; in such a case a secretary would find
great difficulty, if the proprietors of Members should enter into a
combination to form a monopoly; to prevent which, in time, the
wisest way is to purchase up the raw material, young Members
of Parliament, just rough from the grass; and when they are a
little bitted, and he has got a pretty stud, perhaps of seventy, he
may laugh at the slave merchant; some of them he may teach
to sound through the nose, like a barrel organ; some, in the
course of a few months, might be taught to cry, ^< Hear! hear!''
some, "Chair! chair!'' upon occasion, — though those latter might
create a little confusion, if they were to forget whether they
were calling inside or outside of those doors. Again he might
have some so trained that he need only pull a string, and up
gets a repeating Member; and if they were so dull that they
could neither speak nor make orations (for they are different
things), he might have them taught to dance, pedibus ire in sen-
tentia. This improvement might be extended; he might have
them dressed in coats ai^ shirts all of one color; and, of a Sun-
day, he might march them to church two by two, to the great
edification of the people and the honor of the Christian religion;
afterwards, like ancient Spartans, or the fraternity of Kilmain-
ham, they might dine altogether in a large hall. Good heaven!
what a sight to see them feeding in public, upon public viands,
and talking of public subjects, for the benefit of the pubHc! It
is a pity they are not immortal; but I hope they will flourish as
a corporation, and that pensioners will beget pensioners, to the



Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 30 of 39)