Page images

"ery reason, to be

Damages not to the defendant.

You ca. not minister to a mind diseased.3 affections were the solace of his life; that for You can not redress a man who is wronged be nothing the world could bestow it. the shape of 4 money can not yond the possibility of redress : the riches or honors would he have bartered one wrong, the award law has no means of restoring to moment's comfort in the bosom of his family, he ought, for this

him what he has lost. God him. shows you a wrong that no money can compenmost ample. self, as he has constituted human sate. Nevertheless, if the injury is only mensuranature, has no means of alleviating such an inju- ble in money, and if you are sworn to make upon ry as the one I have brought before you. While your oaths a pecuniary compensation, though I the sensibilities, affections, and seelings he has can conceive that the damages when given to given to man remain, it is in possible to heal a the extent of the declaration, and you can give wound which strikes so deep into the soul. When no more, may fall short of what your consciences you have given to a plaintiff, in damages, all that would have dictated, yet I am utterly at a loss figures can nun.ber, it is as nothing; he goes away to comprehend upon what principle they can be hanging down his head in sorrow, accompanied lessened. But then comes the defendant's ccun. by his wretched family, dispirited and dejected. sel, and says, “It is true that the injury can not Novertheless, the law has given a civil action for be compensated by the sum which the plaintiff adultery, and, strange to say, it has given noth- has demanded; but you will consider the mise. ing else. The law commands that the injury ries my client must suffer, if you make him the shall be compensated (as far as it is practicable) object of a severe verdict. You must, therefore, IN MONEY, because courts of Civil Justice have no regard him with compassion ; though I am ready other means of compensation than money; and to admit the plaintiff is to be compensated for the only question, therefore, and which you upon the injury he has received. your oaths are to decide, is this : has the plaint- Here, then, Lord Kenyon's doctrine deserves iff sustained an injury up to the extent which he consideration. “He who will mitihas complained of? Will twenty thousand pounds gate damages below the fair esti- be mitigated place him in the same condition of comfort and mate of the wrong which he has cause shown by happiness that he enjoyed before the adultery, and committed, must do it upon some which the adulterer has deprived him of? You principle which the policy of the law will supknow that it will not. Ask your own hearts the port.” question, and you will receive the same answer. Let me, then, examine, whether the defendant I should be glad to know, then, upon what prin- is in a situation which entitles him to No such crude ciple, as it regards the private justice, which the have the damages against him miti- in this case. plaintiff has a right to, or upon what principle, gated, when private justice to the injured party as the example of that justice affects the public calls upon you to give them to THE UTMOST and the remotest generations of mankind, you can FARTHING. The question will be, on what prir:reduce this demand even in a single farthing. ciple of mitigation he can stand before you. I This is a doctrine which has been frequently had occasion, not a great while ago, to remark

countenanced by the noble and learned to a jury, that the wholesome institutions of the Loto Meet the Lord [Lord Kenyon) who lately pre- civilized world came seasonably in aid of the

sided in the Court of King's Bench; dispensations of Providence for our well-being but his Lordship’s reasoning on the subject bas in the world. If I were to ask, what it is that been much misunderstood, and frequently mis- prevents the prevalence of the crime of incest, represented. The noble Lord is supposed to by taking away those otherwise natural impulses, have said, that although a plaintiff may not have from the promiscuous gratification of which we sustained an injury by adultery to a given amount, should become like the beasts of the field, and yet that large damages, for the sake of public lose all the intellectual endearments which are example, should be given. He never said any at once the pride and the happiness of man? such thing. He said that which law and morals What is it that renders our houses dictated to him, and which will support his rep- pure and our families innocent? It the severest utation as long as law and morals have a foot- is that, by the wise institutions of all ty to protect : ing in the world. He said that every plaintiff civilized nations, there is placed a the closest inti. had a right to recover damages up to the extent kind of guard against the human macy. of the injury he had received, and that public ex- passions, in that sense of impropriety and dishon. ample stood in the way of showing favor to an or, which the law has raised up, and impressed adulterer, by reducing the damages below the with almost the force of a second nature. This sum which ihe jury would otherwise consider as wise and politic restraint beats down, by the the lowest compensation for the wrong. If the habits of the mind, even a propensity to incestu. plaintiff shows you that he was a most affection- ous commerce, and opposes those inclinations ate husband; ihat his parental and conjugal which nature, for wise purposes, has implanted

in our breasts at the approach of the other sex. Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

It holds the mind in chains against the seduc. Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

tions of beauty. It is a moral feeling in perRaze out the written troubles of the brain, And with some sweet oblivious antidote petual opposition to human infirmity. It is like Cleanse the stiffed bosom of that perilous stuff an angel from heaven placed to guard us from Which weighs upon the heart?

propensities which are evil. It is that warning Macbeth, Act v., Sc. 3. voice, gentlemen, which enables you to embrace

Viewn of

of damages.

On the contrary, friendship


your daughter, however lovely, without feeling such reflections, he had innumerable difficulties that you are of a different sex. It is that which and obstacles to contend with. He could not enables you, in the same manner, to live familiarly but hear, in the first refusals of this unhappy with your nearest female relations, with jut those lady, every thing to awaken conscience, and desires which are natural to man.

even to excite horror. In the arguments be Next to the tie of blood (if not, indeed, before must have employed to seduce her from her duty, Application or it) is the sacred and spontaneous re- he could not but recollect and willfully trample be protetor lation of friendship. The man who upon his own. He was a year engaged in the

comes under the roof of a married pursuit; he resorted repeatedly to his shamclul friend, ought to be under the dominion of the purpose, and advanced to it at such intervals of same inoral restraint; and, thank God, generally time and distance, as entitle me to say, that he is so, from the operation of the causes which I determined in cold blood to enjoy a future and have described. Though not insensible to the momentary gratification, at the expense of every charms of female beauty, he receives its impres- principle of honor which is held sacred among sions under an habitual reserve, which honor im- gentlemen, even where no laws interpose their poses. Hope is the parent of desire, and honor obligations or restraints. tells him he must not hope. Loose thoughts I call upon you, therefore, gentlemen of the may arise, but they are rebuked and dissipated : jury, to consider well this case-for A jory the chie! “Evil into the mind of God or man

it is your office to keep human life sindicators of May come and go, so unapproved, and leave in tone ; your verdict must decide cases. No spot or blame behind."--Milton.

whether such a case can be indulgently considGentlemen, I trouble you with these reflec- ered, without tearing asunder the bonds which tions, that you may be able properly to appre- unite society together. ciate the gnilt of the defendant, and to show Gentlemen, I am not preaching a religion you, that you are not in a case where large al- which men can scarcely practice. I lowances are to be made for the ordinary infirmi- am not affecting a severity of morals in the present ties of onr imperfect natures. When a man beyond the standard of those whom I does wrong in the heat of sudden passion-as, am accustomed to respect, and with whom I assofor instance, when, upon receiving an affront, he ciate in common life. I am not making a stalk. rushes into immediate violence, even to the dep- ing-horse of adultery, to excite exaggerated senrivation of life, the humanity of the law classes timent. This is not the case of a gentleman his offense among the lower degrees of homi- meeting a handsome woman in a public street or cide; it supposes the crime to have been com- in a place of public amusement; where, finding mitted before the mind had time to parley with the coast clear for his addresses, without interitself. But is the criminal act of such a person, ruption from those who should interrapt, he finds

however disastrous may be the conse- himself engaged (probably the successor of anquence, to be compared with that of other) in a vain and transitory intrigue. It is

the defendant ? Invited into the house not the case of him who, night after night, falls of a friend-received with the open arms of af- in with the wife of another, to whom he is a section, as if the same parents had given them stranger, in the boxes of a theater, or other rebirth and bred them—in this situation, this most sorts of pleasure, inviting admirers by indecent monstrous and wicked defendant deliberately dress and deportment, unattended by any thing perpetrated his crime; and, shocking to relate, which bespeaks the affectionate wise and mother not only continued the appearances of friendship of many children. Such connections may be of after he had violated its most sacred obligations, evil example; but I am not here to reform pubbut continued them as a cloak to the barbarous lic manners, but to demand private justice. It is repetitions of his offense—writing letters of re- impossible to assimilate the sort of cases I have gard, while, perhaps, he was the father of the alluded to, which ever will be occasionally oe. last child, whom his injured friend and compan- curring, with this atrocious invasion of household ion was embracing and cherishing as his own ! peace—this portentous disregard of every thing What protection can such conduct possibly re- held sacred among men, good or evil. Nothing, ceive from the humane consideration of the law indeed, can be more affecting than even to be for sudden and violent passions ? A passion for called upon to state the evidence I must bring a woman is progressive; it does not, like anger, before you. I can scarcely pronounce to you gain an uncontrolled ascendency in a moment, that the victim of the defendant's last was the nor is a modest matron to be seduced in a day. mother of nine children, seven of them females Such a crime can not, therefore, be comraitted and infants, unconscious of their unhappy condi. under the resistless dominion of sudden infirmi- tion, deprived of their natural guardian, separaly; it must be deliberately, willfully, and wickedly ted from her forever, and entering the world with committed. The defendant could not possibly a dark cloud hanging over them. But it is not have incurred the guilt of this adultery without in the descending live alone that the happiness often passing through his mind (for he had the of this worthy family is invaded. It hurts me to education and principles of a gentleman) the call before you the venerable progenitor of both very topics I have been insisting upon before you the father and the children, who has risen by exfor his condemnation. Instead of being sudden- traordinary learning and piety to his eminent rank v impelled toward mischief, without leisure for in the Church; and who, instead of receiving,

Abuse of friend lip by the defend int

Mr. Erskine's

bave this made a criminal or fense.

ouch oileuses.

unmixed and vndisturbed, the best consolation | Why does he come here for money? Thank God, of age, in counting up the number of his de- gentlemen, it is NOT MY FAULT. I scendants, carrying down the name and honor of take honor to myself, that I was one exertions to his house to future times, may be forced to turn of those who endeavored to put an end aside his face from some of them that bring to his to this species of action, by the adopreinembrance the wrongs which now oppress tion of a more salutary course of proceeding him, and which it is his duty to forget, because I take honor to myself, that I was one of those it is his, otherwise impossible, duty to forgive who supported in Parliament the adoption of a them.

law to pursue such outrages with the terrors of Gentlemen, if I make out this case by evi- criminal justice. I thought then, and I shall al1:10 one almose dence (and if I do not, forget every ways think, that every act malum in se directly in the literary thing you have beard, and reproach injurious to an individual, and most pernicious in

me for having abused your honest its consequences to society, should be considered feelings), I have established a claim for damages to be a misdemeanor. Indeed, I know of no oththat has no parallel in the annals of fashionable er definition of the term. The Legislature, how. adultery. It is rather like the entrance of Sin ever, thought otherwise, and I bow to its decis. and Death into this lower world. The undone ion; but the business of this day may produce pair were living like our first parents in Para- some changes of opinion on the subject. I never dise, till this demon saw and envied their happy meant that every adultery was to be similarly condition. Like them, they were in a moment considered. Undoubtedly, there are cases where cast down from the pinnacle of human happiness it is comparatively venial, and judges would not into the very lowest abyss of sorrow and despair. overlook the distinctions. I am not a pretender In one point, indeed, the resemblance does not to any extraordinary purity. My severity is conhold, which, while it aggravates the crime, re-fined to cases in which there can be but one sen. doubles the sense of suffering. It was not from timent among men of honor, as to the offense, an enemy, but from a friend, that this evil pro- though they may differ in the mode and measure ceeded. I have just had put into my hand a of its correction. quotation from the Psalms upon this subject, full It is this difference of sentiment, gentlemen, of that unaffected simplicity which so strikingly that I am alone afraid of. I fear you Dangerous characterizes the sublime and sacred poet: - may think there is a sort of limitation consequences

" It is not an open enemy that hath done me in verdicts, and that you may look to damage in this dishonor, for then I could have borne it. precedents for the amount of damages, kind.

Neither was it mine adversary that did mag. though you can find no precedent for the magni nify himself against me; for then, peradventure, tude of the crime ; but you might as well abolish I would have hid myself from him.

the action altogether, as lay down a principle " But it was even thou, my companion, my which limits the consequences of adultery to guide, mine own familiar friend."

what it may be convenient for the adulterer to This is not the language of counsel, but the pay. By the adoption of such a principle, or by inspired language of truth. I ask you solemnly, any mitigation of severity, arising even from an upon your honors and your oaths, if you would insufficient reprobation of it, you unbar the sancexchange the plaintiff's former situation for his tuary of domestic happiness, and establish a sort present, for a hundred times the compensation of license for debauchery, to be sued out like oth. he requires at your hands. I am addressing my- er licenses, at its price. A man has only to put self to affectionate husbands and to the fathers of money into his pocket, according to his degree beloved children. Suppose I were to say to you, and fortune, and he may then debauch the wise There is twenty thousand pounds for you : em. or daughter of his best friend, at the expense ho brace your wise for the last time, and the child chooses to go to. He has only to say to himself, that leans upon her bosom and smiles upon you what Iago says to Roderigo in the play, -retire from your house, and make way for the wulerer—wander about an object for the hand Pat money in thy porse-go to-put money in thy

purse. o scorn to point its slow and moving finger atthink no more of the happiness and tranquillity Persons of immense fortunes might, in this of your former state—I have destroyed them for way, deprive the best men in the country of their ever. But never mind—don't make yourself un-domestic satisfactions, with what to them might easy-here is a draft upon my banker, it will be be considered as impunity. The most abandoned paid at sight—there is no better man in the city. profligate might say to himself

, or to other profliI can see you think I am mocking you, gentle gates, “I have suffered judgment by default-let men, and well you may; but it is the very pith them send down their deputy-sheriff to the King's und marrow of this cause. It is impossible to Arms Tavern; I shall be concealed from the eyo put the argument in mitigation of damages in of the public, I have drawn upon my banker for plain English, without talking such a language, the utmost damages, and I have as much more to as appears little better than an insult to your un spare to-morrow, if I can find another woman derstandings, dress it up as you will.

whom I would choose to enjoy at such a price." Rut it may be asked—if no money can be an In this manner I have seen a rich delinquent, too adeguate, or, indeed, any compensation, why is Mr. Markham a plaintiff in a civil. Action ?

* Othello, Act i., Scene 3.


lightly fined by courts of criminal justice, throw tice of Christianity shall overspread the face of down his bank-notes to the officers, and retire the earth. with a deportment, not of contrition, but con- Gentlemen, as to us, we have nothing to wait tempt.

for. We have long been in the center of light. For these reasons, gentlemen, I expect from We have a true religion and a free government, you to-day the full measure of damages demand. AND YOU ARE THE PILLARS AND SUPPORTERS OF ed by the plaintiff. Having given such a ver. dict, you will retire with a monitor within con- I have nothing further to add, except that, firming that you have done right; you will retire since the defendant committed the in- Duty of a jaso in sight of an approving public, and an approv- jury complained of, he has sold his in England, ing Heaven. Depend upon it, the world can not estate, and is preparing to remove stitutions have be held together without morals; nor can morals into some other country. Be it so. cherished and maintain their station in the human heart without Let him remove ; but you will have revered. religion, which is the corner-stone of the fabric of to pronounce the penalty of his return. It is for human virtue.

you to declare whether such a person is worthy We have lately had a most striking proof of to be a member of our community. But if the

this sublime and consoling truth in feebleness of your jurisdiction, or a commiseratutions (includ: one result, at least, of the Revolution tion which destroys the exercise of shall shel.

which has astonished and shaken the ter such a criminal from the consequences of his

earth. Though a false philosophy crimes, individual security is gone, and the rights was permitted, for a season, to raise up her vain of the public are unprotected. Whether this be fantastic front, and to trample down the Christian our condition or not, I shall know by your verestablishments and institutions, yet, on a sudden, dict. God said, “ Let there be light, and there was light.” The altars of religion were restored- The jury gave £7000 damages-being the not purged, indeed, of human errors and super- full amount of the defendant's property. The stitions, not reformed in the just sense of refor. money could not be collected, as Mr. Fawcett mation ; yet the Christian religion is still re-es- had fled the country; but the verdict operated tablished — leading on to further resormation ; as a sentence of perpetual banishment against fulfilling the hope that the doctrines and prac. him

Peroration :

[ocr errors]

ing marriage) westored in France.


JOHN PHILPOT CURRAN was born at Newmarket, an obscure village in the north. west corner of the county of Cork, Ireland, on the 24th of July, 1750. The family was in low circumstances, his father being seneschal, or collector of rents, to a gentleman of small property in the neighborhood. He was'a man, however, of vigorous intellect, and acquirements above his station; while his wife was distinguished for that bold, irregular strength of mind, that exuberance of imagination and warmth of feel. ing, which were so strikingly manifested in the character of her favorite son.

The peculiar position of his father brought the boy, from early life, into contact with persons of every class, both high and low; and he thus gained that perfect knowledge of the mind and heart of his countrymen, and that kindling sympathy with their feelings, which gave him more power over an Irish jury than any other man ever possessed. Though sent early to school, his chief delight was in societyin fun, frolic, mimicry, and wild adventure. The country fairs, which were frequent m his native village, were his especial delight; and, as he moved in the crowded streets, among the cattle and the pigs, the horse-dealers and frieze-dealers, the matchmakers and the peddlers, he had his full share of the life, and sport, and contention of the scene.

He was a regular attendant on dances and wakes ; and dwelt with the deepest interest on the old traditions about the unfinished palace of Kanturk, in the neighborhood, or listened to the stories concerning the rapparees of King Will. iam's wars, or to “the strains of the piper as he blew the wild notes to which Alister M.Donnel marched to battle at Knocknanois, and the wilder ones in which the wonen mourned over his corse.” Every thing conspired from his earliest yeurs !o give him freedom and versatility of mind; to call forth the keenest sagacity is to chaincter and motives ; to produce a quick sense of the ridiculous; to cherish that passionate strength of feeling which expressed itself equally in tears and laughter, to make him, at once, of reality and imagination "all compact.”.

When he was about fourteen years old, as he was rolling marbles one morning, and playing his tricks in the ball-alley, he attracted the notice of an elderly gentleman who was passing by. It was the Rev. Mr. Boyse, a clergyman of the Church of England, who held the rectorship of the parish. The family of Curran were attondants on his ministry, and he had heard much of the brightness and promise of the boy. He invited him to his house, and was so much pleased with his frank and hearty conversation, that he offered at once to instruct him in the classics, with a view to his entering Trinity College, Dublin. Young Curran was ready for any thing that could gratify his curiosity. He removed to the Rectory; he devoted himself to study, though with occasional outbreaks of his love of fun and frolic; he made such proficiency that, within three years, he fairly outran his patron's ability to teach him ; he was then removed by Mr. Boyse to a school at Middleton, and supported partly at his expense ; and was prepared for the University in 1769, at the age of nineteen.

Here he studied the classics especially, with great ardor, perfecting himself so fully both in the Latin and Greek languages, that he could read them with ease and pleasure throughout life. His exertions were rewarded by honors and emoluments which very nearly provided for his support while in college ; and he carried with him into life an enthusiasm for these studies which never subsided, amid all the multiplied carcs of business and politics For a long time he read Homer once every year;


« PreviousContinue »