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of mankind, or to his reputation from their general feelings, by degrading his offence, when I cannot soften his punishment. The general sense of mankind tells me, that those offences, which may possibly arise from mistaken virtue, are not in the class of infamous actions. Lord Coke, the oracle of the English law, conforms to that general sense where he says, that “those things which are of the highest criminality may be of the least disgrace.” The act prepares a sort of masked proceeding, not honourable to the justice of the kingdom, and by no means necessary for its safety. I cannot enter into it. If Lord Balmerino, in the last rebellion, had driven off the cattle of twenty clans, I should have thought it would have been a scandalous and low juggle, utterly unworthy of the manliness of an English judicature, to have tried him for felony as a stealer of cows.
Besides, I must honestly tell you, that I could not vote for, or countenance in any way, a statute, which stigmatizes with the crime of piracy these men, whom an act of parliament had previously put out of the protection of the law. When the legislature of this kingdom had ordered all their ships and goods, for the mere new-created offence of exercising trade, to be divided as a spoil among the seamen of the navy, -to consider the necessary reprisal of an unhappy, proscribed, interdicted people, as the crime of piracy, would have appeared, in any other legislature than ours, a strain of the most insulting and most unnatural cruelty and injustice. I assure you I never remember to have heard of anything like it in any time or country.
The second professed purpose of the act is, to detain in England for trial those who shall commit high treason in America.
That you may be enabled to enter into the true spirit of the present law, it is necessary, gentlemen, to apprize you, that there is an act, made so long ago as in the reign of Henry the Eighth, before the existence or thought of any English colonies in America, for the trial in this kingdom of treasons committed out of the realm. In the year 1769, parliament thought proper to acquaint the crown with their construction of that act in a formal address, wherein they entreated his Majesty to cause persons, charged with high treason in America, to be brought into this kingdom for trial. By this
Preliminary Volume to the Standard Library Edition of
THE RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE,
JAMES PRIOR, ESQ.
FIFTH EDITION, REVISED AND ENLARGED.
With Fine Portrait.
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POLITICAL MISCELLANIES. REFLECTIONS ON THE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE. LETTER TO A MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.
LONDON: HENRY G. BOHN, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
SPEECH AT BRISTOL, PREVIOUS TO THE ELECTION, 1780 .
SPEECH AT BRISTOL, UN DECLINING THE Poll
A RepresentATION TO HIS MAJESTY, MOVED IN THE HOUSE OR